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B    3    575 







Mrs.   Paul  Boyich 




8vo,  cloth.   318  pages,  33  full-page 


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illustrations  by  Clifton  Johnson 

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W  A  L  D  E  N 







THOMAS   Y.   CROWELL   &   CO. 


Published,  September  1910 





Cob.  2s 

CONCORD,  Thoreau's  birthplace,  and  his 
life-long  place  of  residence,  except  for  a 
few  short  periods,  is  an  inland  town 
about  twenty  miles  from  Boston.  The  town  is 
in  the  center  of  a  large  tract  which  first  drew 
settlers  to  it  because  of  its  great  meadows  on  the 
Musketaquid  River.  Back  from  the  stream  are 
sandy  or  rocky  uplands,  covered  for  the  most 
part,  as  they  always  have  been,  with  woods  of 
oak,  pine,  chestnut  and  maple.  The  people 
are  chiefly  farmers,  but  a  considerable  number 
of  mechanics,  merchants  and  professional  men 
dwell  in  the  village.  As  a  whole  the  region  is 
one  of  quiet  serenity,  favorable  to  leisurely 
thought  and  rambling,  and  also  to  that  persist 
ent  industry  by  which  New  England  thrives. 

In  Thoreau's  time  Concord  was  a  somewhat 
smaller  place  than  now,  and  naturally  was 
rather  more  rustic.  The  population  was  about 
two  thousand,  the  mode  of  life  plain  and  un 
ostentatious,  and  the  people  generally  thrifty, 
few  having  wealth,  but,  on  the  other  hand,  few 
being  pinched  by  poverty.  The  farm  houses 
were  usually  of  the  ample  and  substantial  type 
that  bespoke  antiquity  and  hospitality.  These 



ancient  homesteads  always  appealed  to  Thoreau, 
and  when  a  dwelling  was  abandoned  and  went 
to  ruin,  his  interest  continued  in  the  neglected 
orchard  and  dooryard  and  other  features  of  the 
former  homestead  that  attested  human  contact 
and  care.  This  interest  in  mankind's  relation 
to  the  soil,  the  waters  and  the  woodlands  is 
constantly  manifest  in  his  books,  and  he  deals 
as  much  with  human  nature  as  with  that  of 
forest  and  field. 

It  was  in  March,  1845,  that  he  borrowed  an 
axe  of  his  friend,  Mr.  Alcott,  and  went  to  the 
woods  to  begin  preparations  for  building  the 
hut  in  which  he  afterward  lived  more  than  two 
years  beside  Walden  Pond,  about  a  mile  south 
of  Concord  village.  He  had  long  meditated 
making  such  an  experiment.  The  laborious 
routine  and  the  conventionalities  of  ordinary 
civilized  life  were  a  burden  to  him.  He  rebelled 
against  the  necessity  of  expending  so  much  time 
and  energy  in  the  mere  struggle  for  food  and 
shelter  —  it  left  him  too  little  leisure  to  be  wise, 
and  too  little  impulse  to  carry  on  his  mental 
and  spiritual  growth.  At  Walden  he  proposed 
to  learn  how  small  were  the  actual  needs  of  the 
body,  and  what  the  essential  cost  of  living.  He 
would  test  the  pleasures  and  possible  draw 
backs  of  the  plainest  fare  and  a  primitively 
simple  dwelling.  He  coveted,  too,  the  oppor 
tunity  that  would  be  afforded  to  study  Nature 


while  living  in  closer  contact  with  the  out-of- 
door  world  than  he  could  in  the  village,  and  he 
wanted  to  have  solitude  for  undisturbed  medi 
tation  and  authorship. 

He  was  of  course  visited  at  his  woodland 
retreat  by  his  old  acquaintances,  and  among 
these  was  Mr.  Alcott,  who,  after  returning  from 
spending  an  evening  at  the  hermitage,  made 
this  entry  in  his  diary:  "If  I  were  to  proffer  my 
earnest  prayer  to  the  gods  for  the  greatest  of  all 
human  privileges  it  should  be  for  the  gift  of  a 
severely  candid  friend.  Most  are  lovers  of  pres 
ent  reputation,  and  not  of  that  exaltation  of  soul 
which  friends  and  discourse  were  given  to  awaken 
and  cherish  in  us.  Intercourse  of  this  kind  I 
have  found  possible  with  my  friends  Emerson 
and  Thoreau;  and  the  evenings  passed  in  their 
society  realize  my  conception  of  what  friend 
ship  owes  to  and  takes  from  its  objects." 

Thoreau  was  a  squatter  at  Walden  on  the 
property  of  Mr.  Emerson,  who,  for  the  sake  of 
his  walks  and  his  winter  fire,  had  bought  land 
on  both  sides  of  Walden  Pond.  Emerson  was 
evidently  interested  and  attracted  to  a  marked 
degree  by  his  friend's  woodland  life;  for  we 
find  Thoreau,  at  the  end  of  his  first  year's 
pondside  residence,  designing  a  lodge  which 
Emerson  proposed  should  occupy  a  ledge  on 
the  opposite  shore  where  it  would  command  a 
wide  prospect  westerly  over  the  level  country 


toward  Monadnock  and  Wachusett.  It  was  to 
be  a  retreat  for  study  and  writing,  but  it  was 
never  built.  Instead,  a  rustic  summer  house 
was  erected  in  Mr.  Emerson's  garden.  The 
three  friends,  Alcott,  Emerson  and  Thoreau, 
were  intending  to  join  in  this  task,  and  they 
went  to  the  woods  together  to  cut  the  trees 
needed  for  the  purpose.  Mr.  Emerson,  how 
ever,  wielded  the  axe  only  one  day.  He  found 
his  strength  and  skill  unequal  to  that  of  his 
companions,  and  withdrew.  When  the  work  of 
actually  building  the  summer  house  was  begun 
Thoreau  also  withdrew,  he  was  so  averse  to  the 
way  in  which  Mr.  Alcott  went  ahead  putting 
up  and  tearing  down  with  no  settled  design  on 

It  is  by  his  two  years'  encampment  in  the 
Walden  woods  that  Thoreau  is  best  known  to 
the  world;  for  so  unusual  a  proceeding  on  the 
part  of  a  man  of  his  education  and  cultured 
tastes  could  not  help  attracting  much  curious 
interest.  The  book  which  relates  how  he  lived 
and  what  he  saw  during  this  period  has  been 
the  most  popular  of  his  writings,  and  will  prob 
ably  continue  to  be.  In  none  of  his  books  is 
his  genius  displayed  so  characteristically  and 
completely.  It  was,  however,  not  published  un 
til  seven  years  after  his  experiment  as  a  hermit 
ended.  Like  all  his  books,  it  contains  much 
that  is  not  in  the  least  concerned  with  what  is 


primarily  the  subject  of  the  volume.  But  it 
does  charmingly  describe  the  scenes  and  events 
of  his  sylvan  days  and  nights  with  nature,  and 
it  has  made  Walden  the  most  romantically 
attractive  region  of  Concord.  Anciently,  how 
ever,  that  neighborhood  was  a  district  of  dark 
repute,  the  dwelling-place  of  ne'er-do-well  and 
lawless  characters  such  as  used  to  fringe  many 
a  sober  New  England  village.  A  large  propor 
tion  of  the  humble  houses  were  those  of  negroes. 
Why  Thoreau  should  establish  himself  in 
so  forlorn  a  vicinity  was  a  puzzle  to  most  of  his 
fellow-townsmen.  Indeed,  not  a  few  of  his 
readers  in  the  years  that  have  passed  since, 
contemplating  the  long  period  he  lived  in  that 
lonely  woodland  shanty,  have  been  led  to  de 
clare  that  he  was  a  barbarian  or  a  misanthrope. 
But  the  environment  suited  his  mood  at  the 
time  and  gave  him  the  chance  to  write  and 
meditate  free  from  many  of  the  distractions  of 
ordinary  life.  He  was  not,  however,  by  any 
means  cut  off  from  his  accustomed  world;  for, 
though  often  in  his  hut  for  days  together,  he 
also  was  frequently  at  the  family  home  in  the 
village.  Such  intimacy  as  he  had  with  friends 
and  acquaintances  was  likewise  continued,  and 
he  was  as  social  as  he  ever  had  been.  He  lived 
a  life  of  labor  and  study  in  his  forest  retreat,  and 
as  soon  as  he  exhausted  the  advantages  of  that 
solitude  he  abandoned  it. 


The  experience  was  never  regretted,  and  lie 
seems  to  have  found  his  Walden  life  in  many 
respects  ideal;  yet  he  was  not  inclined  to  insist 
that  others  should  adopt  a  similar  life  because, 
as  he  explains,  unless  a  person  has  "a  pretty 
good  supply  of  internal  sunshine  he  would  have, 
I  judge,  to  spend  too  much  of  his  time  in  fight 
ing  with  his  dark  humors." 

Thoreau's  hut  became  the  property  of  a 
Scotch  gardener,  who  removed  it  a  short  dis 
tance  to  the  author's  beanfield,  and  made  it 
his  cottage  for  a  few  years.  Then  a  farmer 
bought  it,  put  it  on  wheels,  and  carried  it 
to  his  farm,  three  miles  north,  where  it  stood 
for  many  years,  a  shelter  for  corn  and  beans, 
and  a  favorite  haunt  of  squirrels  and  blue 

On  the  spot  where  the  cabin  stood  in  the 
woods  is  now  a  cairn  of  stones,  yearly  visited 
by  hundreds,  and  gradually  growing;  for  each 
visitor  is  supposed  to  honor  the  poet-naturalist's 
memory  by  bringing  a  stone  from  the  borders 
of  the  near  lake  and  adding  it  to  the  pile.  The 
land  roundabout  still  continues  in  the  Emerson 
family,  and  its  pine-clad  slopes  are  freely  open 
to  the  public.  I  fancy  the  aspect  of  the  vicinity 
has  not  changed  essentially.  The  woodland 
seclusion  is  almost  as  complete  as  it  was  in 
Thoreau's  time.  Even  the  railroad  which 
skirts  one  end  of  the  pond  was  there  when  he 


had  his  hut  beside  the  little  cove  that  indents 
the  shore  a  quarter  mile  away.  Few  spots  are 
more  satisfying  to  the  literary  pilgrim,  and  it 
is  no  wonder  that  the  stream  of  visitors  should 
be  so  constant  and  numerous  year  after  year. 





II.  WHERE  I  LIVED,  AND  WHAT  I  LIVED  FOR  ...  105 


IV.  SOUNDS 146 





IX.  THE  PONDS 230 

X.  BAKER  FARM 267 









WALDEN  POND Frontispiece 










THE  RAILROAD  AT  THE  EAST  END  OF  THE  POND     .    .  152 







IN    THE    WOODS    NEAR    FAIR-HAVEN    HlLL 230 



FLINT'S  POND    .                               256 










THE  ICY  TREES  . 352 











T  TC  THEN  I  wrote  the  following  pages,  or 

y  Y     rather  the  bulk  of  them,  I  lived  alone, 

in  the  woods,  a  mile  from  any  neighbor, 

in  a  house  which  I  had  built  myself,  on  the  shore 

of  Walden  Pond,  in   Concord,   Massachusetts, 

and  earned  my  living  by  the  labor  of  my  hands 

only.     I  lived  there  two  years  and  two  months. 

At  present  I  am  a  sojourner  in  civilized  life 


I  should  not  obtrude  my  affairs  so  much  on 
the  notice  of  my  readers  if  very  particular  in 
quiries  had  not  been  made  by  my  townsmen 
concerning  my  mode  of  life,  which  some  would 
call  impertinent,  though  they  do  not  appear  to 
me  at  all  impertinent,  but,  considering  the  cir 
cumstances,  very  natural  and  pertinent.  Some 
have  asked  what  I  got  to  eat;  if  I  did  not  feel 
lonesome;  if  I  was  not  afraid;  and  the  like. 
Others  have  been  curious  to  learn  what  portion 
of  my  income  I  devoted  to  charitable  purposes; 
and  some,  who  have  large  families,  how  many 
poor  children  I  maintained.  I  will  therefore 
ask  those  of  my  readers  who  feel  no  particular 


interest  in  me  to  pardon  me  if  I  undertake  to 
answer  some  of  these  questions  in  this  book. 
In  most  books,  the  /,  or  first  person,  is  omitted ; 
in  this  it  will  be  retained;  that,  in  respect  to 
egotism,  is  the  main  difference.  We  com 
monly  do  not  remember  that  it  is,  after  all, 
always  the  first  person  that  is  speaking.  I 
should  not  talk  so  much  about  myself  if  there 
were  anybody  else  whom  I  knew  as  well.  Un 
fortunately,  I  am  confined  to  this  theme  by  the 
narrowness  of  my  experience.  Moreover,  I, 
on  my  side,  require  of  every  writer,  first  or  last, 
a  simple  and  sincere  account  of  his  own  life, 
and  not  merely  what  he  has  heard  of  other 
men's  lives;  some  such  account  as  he  would 
send  to  his  kindred  from  a  distant  land;  for  if 
he  has  lived  sincerely,  it  must  have  been  in  a 
distant  land  to  me.  Perhaps  these  pages  are 
more  particularly  addressed  to  poor  students. 
As  for  the  rest  of  my  readers,  they  will  accept 
such  portions  as  apply  to  them.  I  trust  that 
none  will  stretch  the  seams  in  putting  on  the 
coat,  for  it  may  do  good  service  to  him  whom  it 

I  would  fain  say  something,  not  so  much  con 
cerning  the  Chinese  and  Sandwich  Islanders, 
as  you  who  read  these  pages,  who  are  said  to 
live  in  New  England;  something,  about  your 
condition,  especially  your  outward  condition  or 
circumstances  in  this  world,  in  this  town,  what 

Thoreaus  Cove,  just  below  his  dwelling 


it  is,  whether  it  is  necessary  that  it  be  as  bad  as 
it  is,  whether  it  cannot  be  improved  as  well  as 
not.     I  have  travelled  a  good  deal  in  Concord; 
and  everywhere,  in  shops,  and  offices,  and  fields, 
the   inhabitants    have    appeared    to    me   to    be 
doing  penance  in  a  thousand  remarkable  ways. 
What  I  have  heard  of  Brahmins  sitting  exposed 
to  four  fires  and  looking  in  the  face  of  the  sun; 
or  hanging  suspended,  with  their  heads  down 
ward,  over  flames;    or  looking  at  the  heavens 
over  their  shoulders  "until  it  becomes  impos 
sible  for  them  to  resume  their  natural  position, 
while  from  the  twist  of  the  neck  nothing  but 
liquids  can  pass  into  the  stomach;"    or  dwell 
ing,  chained  for  life,  at  the  foot  of  a  tree;    or 
measuring   with    their  bodies,  like   caterpillars, 
the  breadth  of  vast  empires ;   or  standing  on  one 
leg  on  the  tops  of  pillars,  —  even  these  forms 
of  conscious  penance  are  hardly  more  incredible 
and  astonishing  than  the  scenes  which  I  daily 
witness.     The  twelve  labors  of  Hercules  were 
trifling    in    comparison    with    those    which    my 
neighbors    have    undertaken;     for    they    were 
only  twelve,  and  had  an  end ;   but  I  could  never 
see  that  these  men  slew  or  captured  any  monster 
or  finished   any   labor.      They  have   no  friend 
lolas  to  burn  with  a  hot  iron  the  root  of  the 
hydra's  head,  but  as  soon  as  one  head  is  crushed, 
two  spring  up. 

I  see  young  men,  my  townsmen,  whose  mis- 


fortune  it  is  to  have  inherited  farms,  houses, 
barns,  cattle,  and  farming  tools;  for  these  are 
more  easily  acquired  than  got  rid  of.  Better  if 
they  had  been  born  in  the  open  pasture  and 
suckled  by  a  wolf,  that  they  might  have  seen 
with  clearer  eyes  what  field  they  were  called  to 
labor  in.  Who  made  them  serfs  of  the  soil? 
Why  should  they  eat  their  sixty  acres,  when  man 
is  condemned  to  eat  only  his  peck  of  dirt  ?  Why 
should  they  begin  digging  their  graves  as  soon 
as  they  are  born  ?  They  have  got  to  live  a  man's 
life,  pushing  all  these  things  before  them,  and 
get  on  as  well  as  they  can.  How  many  a  poor 
immortal  soul  have  I  met  well-nigh  crushed  and 
smothered  under  its  load,  creeping  down  the 
road  of  life,  pushing  before  it  a  barn  seventy- 
five  feet  by  forty,  its  Augean  stables  never 
cleansed,  and  one  hundred  acres  of  land,  tillage, 
mowing,  pasture,  and  wood-lot !  The  portion 
less,  who  struggle  with  no  such  unnecessary 
inherited  encumbrances,  find  it  labor  enough 
to  subdue  and  cultivate  a  few  cubic  feet  of  flesh. 
But  men  labor  under  a  mistake.  The  better 
part  of  the  man  is  soon  ploughed  into  the  soil 
for  compost.  By  a  seeming  fate,  commonly 
called  necessity,  they  are  employed,  as  it  says  in 
an  old  book,  laying  up  treasures  which  moth 
and  rust  will  corrupt  and  thieves  break  through 
and  steal.  It  is  a  fool's  life,  as  they  will  find  when 
they  get  to  the  end  of  it,  if  not  before.  It  is 


said  that  Deucalion  and  Pyrrha  created  men  by 
throwing  stones  over  their  heads  behind  them :  — 

Inde  genus  durum  sumus,  experiensque  laborum, 
Et  documenta,  damus  qua  simus  origine  nati. 

Or,  as  Raleigh  rhymes  it  in  his  sonorous  way,  — 

"From  thence  our  kind-hearted  is,  enduring  pain  and  care, 
Approving  that  our  bodies  of  a  stony  nature  are." 

So  much  for  a  blind  obedience  to  a  blundering 
oracle,  throwing  the  stones  over  their  heads 
behind  them,  not  seeing  where  they  fell. 

Most  men,  even  in  this  comparatively  free 
country,  through  mere  ignorance  and  mistake, 
are  so  occupied  with  the  factitious  cares  and 
superfluously  coarse  labors  of  life,  that  its  finer 
fruits  cannot  be  plucked  by  them.  Their  fingers, 
from  excessive  toil,  are  too  clumsy  and  tremble 
too  much  for  that.  Actually,  the  laboring  man 
has  not  leisure  for  a  true  integrity  day  by  day; 
he  cannot  afford  to  sustain  the  manliest  rela 
tions  to  men ;  his  labor  would  be  depreciated 
in  the  market.  He  has  no  time  to  be  anything 
but  a  machine.  How  can  he  remember  well 
his  ignorance  —  which  his  growth  requires  — 
who  has  so  often  to  use  his  knowledge?  We 
should  feed  and  clothe  him  gratuitously  some 
times,  and  recruit  him  with  our  cordials,  before 
we  judge  of  him.  The  finest  qualities  of  our 
nature,  like  the  bloom  on  fruits,  can  be  pre- 


served  only  by  the  most  delicate  handling.  Yet 
we  do  not  treat  ourselves  nor  one  another  thus 

Some  of  you,  we  all  know,  are  poor,  find  it 
hard  to  live,  are  sometimes,  as  it  were,  gasping 
for  breath.  I  have  no  doubt  that  some  of  you 
who  read  this  book  are  unable  to  pay  for  all  the 
dinners  w^hich  you  have  actually  eaten,  or  for 
the  coats  and  shoes  which  are  fast  wearing  or  are 
already  worn  out,  and  have  come  to  this  page  to 
spend  borrowed  or  stolen  time,  robbing  your 
creditors  of  an  hour.  It  is  very  evident  what 
mean  and  sneaking  lives  many  of  you  live,  for 
my  sight  has  been  whetted  by  experience;  al 
ways  on  the  limits,  trying  to  get  into  business 
and  trying  to  get  out  of  debt,  a  very  ancient 
slough,  called  by  the  Latins  ess  alienum,  an 
other's  brass,  for  some  of  their  coins  w^ere  made 
of  brass;  still  living,  and  dying,  and  buried  by 
this  other's  brass;  always  promising  to  pay, 
promising  to  pay,  to-morrow,  and  dying  to-day, 
insolvent ;  seeking  to  curry  favor,  to  get  custom, 
by  how  many  modes,  only  not  state-prison  of 
fences;  lying,  flattering,  voting,  contracting 
yourselves  into  a  nutshell  of  civility,  or  dilating 
into  an  atmosphere  of  thin  and  vaporous  gen 
erosity,  that  you  may  persuade  your  neighbor 
to  let  you  make  his  shoes,  or  his  hat,  or  his 
coat,  or  his  carriage,  or  import  his  grocer 
ies  for  him;  making  yourselves  sick,  that  you 


may  lay  up  something  against  a  sick  day,  some 
thing  to  be  tucked  away  in  an  old  chest,  or  in  a 
stocking  behind  the  plastering,  or,  more  safely, 
in  a  brick  bank;  no  matter  where,  no  matter 
how  much  or  how  little. 

I  sometimes  wonder  that  we  can  be  so  frivo 
lous,  I  may  almost  say,  as  to  attend  to  the  gross 
but  somewhat  foreign  form  of  servitude  called 
Negro  Slavery,  there  are  so  many  keen  and 
subtle  masters  that  enslave  both  north  and 
south.  It  is  hard  to  have  a  southern  overseer; 
it  is  worse  to  have  a  northern  one;  but  worst 
of  all  when  you  are  the  slave-driver  of  yourself. 
Talk  of  a  divinity  in  man  !  Look  at  the  teamster 
on  the  highway,  wending  to  market  by  day  or 
night ;  does  any  divinity  stir  within  him  ?  His 
highest  duty  to  fodder  and  water  his  horses ! 
What  is  his  destiny  to  him  compared  with  the 
shipping  interests  ?  Does  not  he  drive  for  Squire 
Make-a-stir  ?  How  godlike,  how  immortal,  is 
he  ?  See  how  he  cowers  and  sneaks,  how  vaguely 
all  the  day  he  fears,  not  being  immortal  nor 
divine,  but  the  slave  and  prisoner  of  his  own 
opinion  of  himself,  a  fame  won  by  his  own  deeds. 
Public  opinion  is  a  weak  tyrant  compared  with 
our  own  private  opinion.  What  a  man  thinks 
of  himself,  that  it  is  which  determines,  or  rather 
indicates,  his  fate.  Self -emancipation  even  in 
the  West  Indian  provinces  of  the  fancy  and 
imagination,  —  what  Wilberforce  is  there  to 


bring  that  about  ?  Think,  also,  of  the  ladies  of 
the  land  weaving  toilet  cushions  against  the  last 
day,  not  to  betray  too  green  an  interest  in  their 
fates  !  As  if  you  could  kill  time  without  injur 
ing  eternity. 

The  mass  of  men  lead  lives  of  quiet  desper 
ation.  What  is  called  resignation  is  confirmed 
desperation.  From  the  desperate  city  you  go 
into  the  desperate  country,  and  have  to  console 
yourself  with  the  bravery  of  minks  and  musk- 
rats.  A  stereotyped  but  unconscious  despair  is 
concealed  even  under  what  are  called  the  games 
and  amusements  of  mankind.  There  is  no  play 
in  them,  for  this  comes  after  work.  But  it  is 
a  characteristic  of  wisdom  not  to  do  desperate 

When  we  consider  what,  to  use  the  words  of 
the  catechism,  is  the  chief  end  of  man,  and  what 
are  the  true  necessaries  and  means  of  life,  it 
appears  as  if  men  had  deliberately  chosen  the 
common  mode  of  living  because  they  preferred 
it  to  any  other.  Yet  they  honestly  think  there  is 
no  choice  left.  But  alert  and  healthy  natures 
remember  that  the  sun  rose  clear.  It  is  never 
too  late  to  give  up  our  prejudices.  No  way  of 
thinking  or  doing,  however  ancient,  can  be 
trusted  without  proof.  What  everybody  echoes 
or  in  silence  passes  by  as  true  to-day  may  turn 
out  to  be  falsehood  to-morrow,  mere  smoke  of 
opinion,  which  some  had  trusted  for  a  cloud  that 


would  sprinkle  fertilizing  rain  on  their  fields. 
What  old  people  say  you  cannot  do  you  try  and 
find  that  you  can.  Old  deeds  for  old  people, 
and  new  deeds  for  new.  Old  people  did  not 
know  enough  once,  perchance,  to  fetch  fresh 
fuel  to  keep  the  fire  a-going;  new  people  put  a 
little  dry  wood  under  a  pot,  and  are  whirled 
round  the  globe  with  the  speed  of  birds,  in  a 
way  to  kill  old  people,  as  the  phrase  is.  Age  is 
no  better,  hardly  so  well,  qualified  for  an  in 
structor  as  youth,  for  it  has  not  profited  so  much 
as  it  has  lost.  One  may  almost  doubt  if  the 
wisest  man  has  learned  anything  of  absolute 
value  by  living.  Practically,  the  old  have  no 
very  important  advice  to  give  the  young,  their 
own  experience  has  been  so  partial,  and  their 
lives  have  been  such  miserable  failures,  for 
private  reasons,  as  they  must  believe ;  and  it 
may  be  that  they  have  some  faith  left  which 
belies  that  experience,  and  they  are  only  less 
young  than  they  were.  I  have  lived  some  thirty 
years  on  this  planet,  and  I  have  yet  to  hear  the 
first  syllable  of  valuable  or  even  earnest  advice 
from  my  seniors.  They  have  told  me  nothing, 
and  probably  cannot  tell  me  anything,  to  the 
purpose.  Here  is  life,  an  experiment  to  a  great 
extent  untried  by  me;  but  it  does  not  avail  me 
that  they  have  tried  it.  If  I  have  any  experience 
which  I  think  valuable,  I  am  sure  to  reflect  that 
this  my  Mentors  said  nothing  about. 


One  farmer  says  to  me,  "You  cannot  live  on 
vegetable  food  solely,  for  it  furnishes  nothing 
to  make  bones  with;"  and  so  he  religiously 
devotes  a  part ,  of  his  day  to  supplying  his  sys 
tem  with  the  raw  material  of  bones,  walking 
all  the  while  he  talks  behind  his  oxen,  which, 
with  vegetable-made  bones,  jerk  him  and  his 
lumbering  plough  along  in  spite  of  every  ob 
stacle.  Some  things  are  really  necessaries  of 
life  in  some  circles,  the  most  helpless  and  dis 
eased,  which  in  others  are  luxuries  merely,  and 
in  others  still  are  entirely  unknown. 

The  whole  ground  of  human  life  seems  to 
some  to  have  been  gone  over  by  their  predeces 
sors,  both  the  heights  and  the  valleys,  and  all 
things  to  have  been  cared  for.  According  to 
Evelyn,  "the  wise  Solomon  prescribed  ordi 
nances  for  the  very  distances  of  trees;  and  the 
Roman  praetors  have  decided  how  often  you 
may  go  into  your  neighbor's  land  to  gather  the 
acorns  which  fall  on  it  without  trespass,  and 
what  share  belongs  to  that  neighbor."  Hippoc 
rates  has  even  left  directions  how  we  should 
cut  our  nails ;  that  is,  even  with  the  ends  of  the 
fingers,  neither  shorter  nor  longer.  Undoubt 
edly  the  very  tedium  and  ennui  which  presume 
to  have  exhausted  the  variety  and  the  joys  of 
life  are  as  old  as  Adam.  But  man's  capacities 
have  never  been  measured ;  nor  are  we  to  judge 
of  what  he  can  do  by  any  precedents,  so  little 


has  been  tried.  Whatever  have  been  thy  fail 
ures  hitherto,  "be  not  afflicted,  my  child,  for 
who  shall  assign  to  thee  what  thou  hast  left 

We  might  try  our  lives  by  a  thousand  simple 
tests ;  as,  for  instance,  that  the  same  sun  which 
ripens  my  beans  illumines  at  once  a  system  of 
earths  like  ours.  If  I  had  remembered  this  it 
would  have  prevented  some  mistakes.  This 
was  not  the  light  in  which  I  hoed  them.  The 
stars  are  the  apexes  of  what  wonderful  triangles  ! 
What  distant  and  different  beings  in  the  various 
mansions  of  the  universe  are  contemplating  the 
same  one  at  the  same  moment !  Nature  and 
human  life  are  as  various  as  our  several  consti 
tutions.  Who  shall  say  what  prospect  life  offers 
to  another  ?  Could  a  greater  miracle  take  place 
than  for  us  to  look  through  each  other's  eyes 
for  an  instant  ?  We  should  live  in  all  the  ages 
of  the  world  in  an  hour;  ay,  in  all  the  worlds 
of  the  ages.  History,  Poetry,  Mythology  !  —  I 
know  of  no  reading  of  another's  experience  so 
startling  and  informing  as  this  would  be. 

The  greater  part  of  what  my  neighbors  call 
good  I  believe  in  my  soul  to  be  bad,  and  if  I 
repent  of  anything,  it  is  very  likely  to  be  my 
good  behavior.  What  demon  possessed  me  that 
I  behaved  so  well  ?  You  may  say  the  wisest 
thing  you  can,  old  man,  —  you  who  have  lived 
seventy  years,  not  without  honor  of  a  kind,  - — 


I  hear  an  irresistible  voice  which  invites  me 
away  from  all  that.  One  generation  abandons 
the  enterprises  of  another  like  stranded  vessels. 
I  think  that  we  may  safely  trust  a  good  deal 
more  than  we  do.  We  may  wraive  just  so  much 
care  of  ourselves  as  we  honestly  bestow  else 
where.  Nature  is  as  well  adapted  to  our  weak 
ness  as  to  our  strength.  The  incessant  anxiety 
and  strain  of  some  is  a  well-nigh  incurable  form 
of  disease.  We  are  made  to  exaggerate  the  im 
portance  of  what  work  we  do;  and  yet  how 
much  is  not  done  by  us !  or,  what  if  we  had 
been  taken  sick  ?  How  vigilant  we  are  !  deter 
mined  not  to  live  by  faith  if  we  can  avoid  it ;  all 
the  day  long  on  the  alert,  at  night  we  unwillingly 
say  our  prayers  and  commit  ourselves  to  un 
certainties.  So  thoroughly  and  sincerely  are  we 
compelled  to  live,  reverencing  our  life,  and  deny 
ing  the  possibility  of  change.  This  is  the  only 
way,  we  say;  but  there  are  as  many  ways  as 
there  can  be  drawn  radii  from  one  centre.  All 
change  is  a  miracle  to  contemplate;  but  it  is  a 
miracle  which  is  taking  place  every  instant. 
Confucius  said,  "To  know  that  we  know  what 
we  know,  and  that  we  do  not  know  what  we  do 
not  know,  that  is  true  knowledge."  When  one 
man  has  reduced  a  fact  of  the  imagination  to  be 
a  fact  to  his  understanding,  I  foresee  that  all  men 
will  at  length  establish  their  lives  on  that  basis. 


Let  us  consider  for  a  moment  what  most  of 
the  trouble  and  anxiety  which  I  have  referred  to 
is  about,  and  how  much  it  is  necessary  that  we 
be  troubled,  or,  at  least,  careful.  It  would  be 
some  advantage  to  live  a  primitive  and  frontier 
life,  though  in  the  midst  of  an  outward  civiliza 
tion,  if  only  to  learn  what  are  the  gross  neces 
saries  of  life  and  what  methods  have  been  taken 
to  obtain  them;  or  even  to  look  over  the  old 
day-books  of  the  merchants,  to  see  what  it  was 
that  men  most  commonly  bought  at  the  stores, 
what  they  stored,  that  is,  what  are  the  grossest 
groceries.  For  the  improvements  of  ages  have 
had  but  little  influence  on  the  essential  laws  of 
man's  existence;  as  our  skeletons,  probably, 
are  not  to  be  distinguished  from  those  of  our 

By  the  words,  necessary  of  life,  I  mean  what 
ever,  of  all  that  man  obtains  by  his  own  exer 
tions,  has  been  from  the  first,  or  from  long  use 
has  become,  so  important  to  human  life  that 
few,  if  any,  whether  from  savageness,  or  pov 
erty,  or  philosophy,  ever  attempt  to  do  without 
it.  To  many  creatures  there  is  in  this  sense  but 
one  necessary  of  life,  Food.  To  the  bison  of 
the  prairie  it  is  a  few  inches  of  palatable  grass, 
with  water  to  drink ;  unless  he  seeks  the  Shelter 
of  the  forest  or  the  mountain's  shadow.  None 
of  the  brute  creation  requires  more  than  Food 
and  Shelter.  The  necessaries  of  life  for  man  in 


this  climate  may,  accurately  enough,  be  dis 
tributed  under  the  several  heads  of  Food,  Shel 
ter,  Clothing,  and  Fuel;  for  not  till  we  have 
secured  these  are  we  prepared  to  entertain  the 
true  problems  of  life  with  freedom  and  a  pros 
pect  of  success.  Man  has  invented,  not  only 
houses,  but  clothes  and  cooked  food;  and 
possibly  from  the  accidental  discovery  of  the 
warmth  of  fire,  and  the  consequent  use  of  it,  at 
first  a  luxury,  arose  the  present  necessity  to  sit 
by  it.  We  observe  cats  and  dogs  acquiring  the 
same  second  nature.  By  proper  Shelter  and 
Clothing  we  legitimately  retain  our  own  inter 
nal  heat;  but  with  an  excess  of  these,  or  of  Fuel, 
that  is,  with  an  external  heat  greater  than  our 
own  internal,  may  not  cookery  properly  be  said 
to  begin  ?  Darwin,  the  naturalist,  says  of  the 
inhabitants  of  Terra  del  Fuego  that,  while  his 
own  party,  who  were  well  clothed  and  sitting 
close  to  a  fire,  were  far  from  too  warm,  these 
naked  savages,  who  were  farther  off,  were  ob 
served,  to  his  great  surprise,  "to  be  streaming 
with  perspiration  at  undergoing  such  a  roast 
ing."  So,  we  are  told,  the  New  Hollander  goes 
naked  with  impunity,  while  the  European  shiv 
ers  in  his  clothes.  Is  it  impossible  to  combine 
the  hardiness  of  these  savages  with  the  intel- 
lectualness  of  the  civilized  man  ?  According  to 
Liebig,  man's  body  is  a  stove,  and  food  the  fuel 
which  keeps  up  the  internal  combustion  in  the 


lungs.  In  cold  weather  we  eat  more,  in  warm 
less.  The  animal  heat  is  the  result  of  a  slow 
combustion,  and  disease  and  death  take  place 
when  this  is  too  rapid;  or  for  want  of  fuel,  or 
from  some  defect  in  the  draught,  the  fire  goes 
out.  Of  course  the  vital  heat  is  not  to  be  con 
founded  with  fire;  but  so  much  for  analogy.  It 
appears,  therefore,  from  the  above  list,  that  the 
expression,  animal  life,  is  nearly  synonymous 
with  the  expression,  animal  heat;  for  while 
Food  may  be  regarded  as  the  Fuel  which  keeps 
up  the  fire  within  us,  —  and  Fuel  serves  only  to 
prepare  that  Food  or  to  increase  the  warmth  of 
our  bodies  by  addition  from  without,  —  Shelter 
and  Clothing  also  serve  only  to  retain  the  heat 
thus  generated  and  absorbed. 

The  grand  necessity,  then,  for  our  bodies  is  to 
keep  warm,  to  keep  the  vital  heat  in  us.  What 
pains  we  accordingly  take,  not  only  with  our 
Food,  and  Clothing,  and  Shelter,  but  with  our 
beds,  which  are  our  night-clothes,  robbing  the 
nests  and  breasts  of  birds  to  prepare  this  shelter 
within  a  shelter,  as  the  mole  has  its  bed  of  grass 
and  leaves  at  the  end  of  its  burrow !  The  poor 
man  is  wont  to  complain  that  this  is  a  cold  world ; 
and  to  cold,  no  less  physical  than  social,  we  re 
fer  directly  a  great  part  of  our  ails.  The  sum 
mer,  in  some  climates,  makes  possible  to  man  a 
sort  of  Elysian  life.  Fuel,  except  to  cook  his 
Food,  is  then  unnecessary;  the  sun  is  his  fire, 


and  many  of  the  fruits  are  sufficiently  cooked  by 
its  rays;  while  Food  generally  is  more  various, 
and  more  easily  obtained,  and  Clothing  and 
Shelter  are  wholly  or  half  unnecessary.  At  the 
present  day,  and  in  this  country,  as  I  find  my 
own  experience,  a  few  implements,  a  knife,  an 
axe,  a  spade,  a  wheelbarrow,  &c.,  and  for  the 
studious,  lamplight,  stationery,  and  access  to  a 
few  books,  rank  next  to  necessaries,  and  can  all 
be  obtained  at  a  trifling  cost.  Yet  some,  not 
w^ise,  go  to  the  other  side  of  the  globe,  to  bar 
barous  and  unhealthy  regions,  and  devote  them 
selves  to  trade  for  ten  or  twenty  years,  in  order 
that  they  may  live,  —  that  is,  keep  comfortably 
warm,  —  and  die  in  New  England  at  last.  The 
luxuriously  rich  are  not  simply  kept  comfort 
ably  warm,  but  unnaturally  hot;  as  I  implied 
before,  they  are  cooked,  of  course  a  la  mode. 

Most  of  the  luxuries,  and  many  of  the  so- 
called  comforts,  of  life  are  not  only  not  indis 
pensable,  but  positive  hindrances  to  the  eleva 
tion  of  mankind.  With  respect  to  luxuries  and 
comforts,  the  wisest  have  ever  lived  a  more 
simple  and  meagre  life  than  the  poor.  The 
ancient  philosophers,  Chinese,  Hindoo,  Persian, 
and  Greek,  were  a  class  than  which  none  has 
been  poorer  in  outward  riches,  none  so  rich  in 
inward.  We  know  not  much  about  them.  It  is 
remarkable  that  we  know  so  much  of  them  as 
we  do.  The  same  is  true  of  the  more  modern 


reformers  and  benefactors  of  their  race.  None 
can  be  an  impartial  or  wise  observer  of  human 
life  but  from  the  vantage  ground  of  what  we 
should  call  voluntary  poverty.  Of  a  life  of  lux 
ury  the  fruit  is  luxury,  whether  in  agriculture, 
or  commerce,  or  literature,  or  art.  There  are 
nowadays  professors  of  philosophy,  but  not 
philosophers.  Yet  it  is  admirable  to  profess  be 
cause  it  was  once  admirable  to  live.  To  be  a 
philosopher  is  not  merely  to  have  subtle  thoughts, 
nor  even  to  found  a  school,  but  so  to  love  wis 
dom  as  to  live,  according  to  its  dictates,  a  life  of 
simplicity,  independence,  magnanimity,  and 
trust.  It  is  to  solve  some  of  the  problems  of 
life,  not  only  theoretically,  but  practically.  The 
success  of  great  scholars  and  thinkers  is  com 
monly  a  courtier-like  success,  not  kingly,  not 
manly.  They  make  shift  to  live  merely  by  con 
formity,  practically  as  their  fathers  did,  and  are 
in  no  sense  the  progenitors  of  a  nobler  race  of 
men.  But  why  do  men  degenerate  ever  ?  What 
makes  families  run  out  ?  What  is  the  nature  of 
the  luxury  which  enervates  and  destroys  na 
tions  ?  Are  we  sure  that  there  is  none  of  it  in 
our  own  lives  ?  The  philosopher  is  in  advance 
of  his  age  even  in  the  outward  form  of  his  life. 
He  is  not  fed,  sheltered,  clothed,  warmed,  like 
his  contemporaries.  How  can  a  man  be  a  phil 
osopher  and  not  maintain  his  vital  heat  by  bet 
ter  methods  than  other  men  ? 


When  a  man  is  warmed  by  the  several  modes 
which  I  have  described,  what  does  he  want 
next?  Surely  not  more  warmth  of  the  same 
kind,  as  more  and  richer  food,  larger  and  more 
splendid  houses,  finer  and  more  abundant  cloth 
ing,  more  numerous,  incessant,  and  hotter  fires, 
and  the  like.  When  he  has  obtained  those 
things  which  are  necessary  to  life,  there  is  an 
other  alternative  than  to  obtain  the  superflu 
ities  ;  and  that  is,  to  adventure  on  life  now,  his 
vacation  from  humbler  toil  having  commenced. 
The  soil,  it  appears,  is  suited  to  the  seed,  for  it 
has  sent  its  radicle  downward,  and  it  may  now 
send  its  shoot  upward  also  with  confidence.  Why 
has  man  rooted  himself  thus  firmly  in  the  earth, 
but  that  he  may  rise  in  the  same  proportion  into 
the  heavens  above  ?  —  for  the  nobler  plants  are 
valued  for  the  fruit  they  bear  at  last  in  the  air 
and  light,  far  from  the  ground,  and  are  not 
treated  like  the  humbler  esculents,  which,  though 
they  may  be  biennials,  are  cultivated  only  till 
they  have  perfected  their  root,  and  often  cut 
down  at  top  for  this  purpose,  so  that  most  would 
not  know  them  in  their  flowering  season. 

I  do  not  mean  to  prescribe  rules  to  strong  and 
valiant  natures,  who  will  mind  their  own  affairs 
whether  in  heaven  or  hell,  and  perchance  build 
more  magnificently  and  spend  more  lavishly 
than  the  richest,  without  ever  impoverishing 
themselves,  not  knowing  how  they  live,  —  if, 


indeed,  there  are  any  such,  as  has  been  dreamed ; 
nor  to  those  who  find  their  encouragement  and 
inspiration  in  precisely  the  present  condition  of 
things,  and  cherish  it  with  the  fondness  and 
enthusiasm  of  lovers,  —  and,  to  some  extent,  I 
reckon  myself  in  this  number;  I  do  not  speak 
to  those  who  are  well  employed,  in  whatever 
circumstances,  and  they  know  whether  they  are 
well  employed  or  not;  —  but  mainly  to  the  mass 
of  men  who  are  discontented,  and  idly  com 
plaining  of  the  hardness  of  their  lot  or  of  the 
times,  w^hen  they  might  improve  them.  There 
are  some  who  complain  most  energetically  and 
inconsolably  of  any,  because  they  are,  as  they 
say,  doing  their  duty.  I  also  have  in  my  mind 
that  seemingly  wealthy  but  most  terribly  im 
poverished  class  of  all,  who  have  accumulated 
dross,  but  know  not  how  to  use  it,  or  get  rid  of 
it,  and  thus  have  forged  their  own  golden  or 
silver  fetters. 

If  I  should  attempt  to  tell  how  I  have  desired 
to  spend  my  life  in  years  past,  it  would  prob 
ably  surprise  those  of  my  readers  wrho  are  some 
what  acquainted  with  its  actual  history ;  it  would 
certainly  astonish  those  who  know  nothing  about 
it.  I  will  only  hint  at  some  of  the  enterprises 
which  I  have  cherished. 

In  any  weather,  at  any  hour  of  the  day  or 
night,  I  have  been  anxious  to  improve  the  nick 


of  time,  and  notch  it  on  my  stick  too;  to  stand 
on  the  meeting  of  two  eternities,  the  past  and 
future,  which  is  precisely  the  present  moment; 
to  toe  that  line.  You  will  pardon  some  ob 
scurities,  for  there  are  more  secrets  in  my  trade 
than  in  most  men's,  and  yet  not  voluntarily  kept, 
but  inseparable  from  its  very  nature.  I  would 
gladly  tell  all  that  I  know  about  it,  and  never 
paint  "No  Admittance"  on  my  gate. 

I  long  ago  lost  a  hound,  a  bay  horse,  and  a 
turtle-dove,  and  am  still  on  their  trail.  Many 
are  the  travellers  I  have  spoken  concerning 
them,  describing  their  tracks  and  what  calls  they 
answered  to.  I  have  met  one  or  two  who  had 
heard  the  hound,  and  the  tramp  of  the  horse, 
and  even  seen  the  dove  disappear  behind  a 
cloud,  and  they  seemed  as  anxious  to  recover 
them  as  if  they  had  lost  them  themselves. 

To  anticipate,  not  the  sunrise  and  the  dawn 
merely,  but,  if  possible,  Nature  herself !  How 
many  mornings,  summer  and  winter,  before  yet 
any  neighbor  was  stirring  about  his  business, 
have  I  been  about  mine !  No  doubt,  many  of 
my  townsmen  have  met  me  returning  from  this 
enterprise,  farmers  starting  for  Boston  in  the 
twilight,  or  woodchoppers  going  to  their  work. 
It  is  true,  I  never  assisted  the  sun  materially  in 
his  rising,  but,  doubt  not,  it  was  of  the  last  im 
portance  only  to  be  present  at  it. 

So  many  autumn,  ay,  and  winter  days,  spent 


outside  the  town,  trying  to  hear  what  was  in  the 
wind,  to  hear  and  carry  it  express !  I  well-nigh 
sunk  all  my  capital  in  it,  and  lost  my  own  breath 
into  the  bargain,  running  in  the  face  of  it.  If  it 
had  concerned  either  of  the  political  parties, 
depend  upon  it,  it  would  have  appeared  in  the 
Gazette  with  the  earliest  intelligence.  At  other 
times  watching  from  the  observatory  of  some 
cliff  or  tree,  to  telegraph  any  new  arrival ;  or 
waiting  at  evening  on  the  hill-tops  for  the  sky 
to  fall,  that  I  might  catch  something,  though  I 
never  caught  much,  and  that,  manna- wise, 
would  dissolve  again  in  the  sun. 

For  a  long  time  I  was  reporter  to  a  journal, 
of  no  very  wide  circulation,  whose  editor  has 
never  yet  seen  fit  to  print  the  bulk  of  my  contri 
butions,  and,  as  is  too  common  with  writers, 
I  got  only  my  labor  for  my  pains.  However,  in 
this  case  my  pains  wrere  their  own  reward. 

For  many  years  I  was  self-appointed  inspector 
of  snow  storms  and  rain  storms,  and  did  my 
duty  faithfully;  surveyor,  if  not  of  highways, 
then  of  forest  paths  and  all  across-lot  routes, 
keeping  them  open,  and  ravines  bridged  and 
passable  at  all  seasons,  where  the  public  heel 
had  testified  to  their  utility. 

I  have  looked  after  the  wild  stock  of  the  town, 
which  give  a  faithful  herdsman  a  good  deal  of 
trouble  by  leaping  fences;  and  I  have  had  an 
eye  to  the  unfrequented  nooks  and  corners  of 


the  farm ;  though  I  did  not  always  know  whether 
Jonas  or  Solomon  worked  in  a  particular  field 
to-day;  that  was  none  of  my  business.  I  have 
watered  the  red  huckleberry,  the  sand  cherry 
and  the  nettle  tree,  the  red  pine  and  the  black 
ash,  the  white  grape  and  the  yellow  violet,  which 
might  have  withered  else  in  dry  seasons. 

In  short,  I  went  on  thus  for  a  long  time,  I  may 
say  it  without  boasting,  faithfully  minding  my 
business,  till  it  became  more  and  more  evident 
that  my  townsmen  would  not  after  all  admit  me 
into  the  list  of  town  officers,  nor  make  my  place 
a  sinecure  with  a  moderate  allowance.  My 
accounts,  which  I  can  swear  to  have  kept  faith 
fully,  I  have,  indeed,  never  got  audited,  still 
less  accepted,  still  less  paid  and  settled.  How 
ever,  I  have  not  set  my  heart  on  that. 

Not  long  since,  a  strolling  Indian  went  to  sell 
baskets  at  the  house  of  a  wrell-known  lawyer 
in  my  neighborhood.  "Do  you  wish  to  buy 
any  baskets?"  he  asked.  "No,  we  do  not  want 
any,"  was  the  reply. 

"What!"  exclaimed  the  Indian,  as  he  went 
out  the  gate,  "do  you  mean  to  starve  us?" 
Having  seen  his  industrious  white  neighbors  so 
well  off, --that  the  lawyer  had  only  to  weave 
arguments,  and  by  some  magic  wealth  and 
standing  followed,  he  had  said  to  himself:  I 
will  go  into  business;  I  will  weave  baskets;  it 
is  a  thing  which  I  can  do.  Thinking  that  when 


he  had  made  the  baskets  he  would  have  done 
his  part,  and  then  it  would  be  the  white  man's 
to  buy  them.  He  had  not  discovered  that  it  was 
necessary  for  him  to  make  it  worth  the  other's 
while  to  buy  them,  or  at  least  make  him  think 
that  it  was  so,  or  to  make  something  else  which 
it  would  be  worth  his  while  to  buy.  I  too  had 
woven  a  kind  of  basket  of  a  delicate  texture,  but 
I  had  not  made  it  worth  any  one's  while  to  buy 
them.  Yet  not  the  less,  in  my  case,  did  I  think 
it  worth  my  while  to  weave  them,  and  instead 
of  studying  how  to  make  it  worth  men's  while 
to  buy  my  baskets,  I  studied  rather  how  to  avoid 
the  necessity  of  selling  them.  The  life  which 
men  praise  and  regard  as  successful  is  but  one 
kind.  Why  should  we  exaggerate  any  one  kind 
at  the  expense  of  the  others  ? 

Finding  that  my  fellow-citizens  were  not 
likely  to  offer  me  any  room  in  the  court  house, 
or  any  curacy  or  living  anywhere  else,  but  I 
must  shift  for  myself,  I  turned  my  face  more 
exclusively  than  ever  to  the  woods,  where  I  was 
better  known.  I  determined  to  go  into  busi 
ness  at  once,  and  not  wait  to  acquire  the  usual 
capital,  using  such  slender  means  as  I  had 
already  got.  My  purpose  in  going  to  Walden 
Pond  was  not  to  live  cheaply  nor  to  live  dearly 
there,  but  to  transact  some  private  business 
with  the  fewest  obstacles;  to  be  hindered  from 
accomplishing  which  for  want  of  a  little  common 


sense,    a   little   enterprise   and   business   talent, 
appeared  not  so  sad  as  foolish. 

I  have  always  endeavored  to  acquire  strict 
business  habits ;  they  are  indispensable  to  every 
man.  If  your  trade  is  with  the  Celestial  Empire, 
then  some  small  counting  house  on  the  coast, 
in  some  Salem  harbor,  will  be  fixture  enough. 
You  will  export  such  articles  as  the  country 
affords,  purely  native  products,  much  ice  and 
pine  timber  and  a  little  granite,  always  in  native 
bottoms.  These  will  be  good  ventures.  To 
oversee  all  the  details  yourself  in  person;  to 
be  at  once  pilot  and  captain,  and  owner  and 
underwriter;  to  buy  and  sell  and  keep  the 
accounts;  to  read  every  letter  received,  and 
write  or  read  every  letter  sent;  to  superintend 
the  discharge  of  imports  night  and  day;  to  be 
upon  many  parts  of  the  coast  almost  at  the 
same  time;  -  -  often  the  richest  freight  will 
be  discharged  upon  a  Jersey  shore;  —  to  be 
your  own  telegraph,  unweariedly  sweeping  the 
horizon,  speaking  all  passing  vessels  bound 
coastwise ;  to  keep  up  a  steady  despatch  of  com 
modities,  for  the  supply  of  such  a  distant  and 
exorbitant  market;  to  keep  yourself  informed 
of  the  state  of  the  markets,  prospects  of  war 
and  peace  everywhere,  and  anticipate  the  ten 
dencies  of  trade  and  civilization, -- taking  ad 
vantage  of  the  results  of  all  exploring  expeditions, 
using  new  passages  and  all  improvements  in 


navigation ;  —  charts  to  be  studied,  the  position 
of  reefs  and  new  lights  and  buoys  to  be  ascer 
tained,  and  ever,  and  ever,  the  logarithmic 
tables  to  be  corrected,  for  by  the  error  of  some 
calculator  the  vessel  often  splits  upon  a  rock 
that  should  have  reached  a  friendly  pier,  - 
there  is  the  untold  fate  of  La  Perouse ;  —  univer 
sal  science  to  be  kept  pace  with,  studying  the 
lives  of  all  great  discoverers  and  navigators, 
great  adventurers  and  merchants,  from  Hanno 
and  the  Phoenicians  down  to  our  day;  in  fine, 
account  of  stock  to  be  taken  from  time  to  time, 
to  know  how  you  stand.  It  is  a  labor  to  task 
the  faculties  of  a  man,  —  such  problems  of  profit 
and  loss,  of  interest,  of  tare  and  tret,  and  gaug 
ing  of  all  kinds  in  it,  as  demand  a  universal 

I  have  thought  that  Walden  Pond  would  be 
a  good  place  for  business,  not  solely  on  account 
of  the  railroad  and  the  ice  trade;  it  offers  ad 
vantages  which  it  may  not  be  good  policy  to 
divulge;  it  is  a  good  post  and  a  good  founda 
tion.  No  Neva  marshes  to  be  filled;  though 
you  must  everywhere  build  on  piles  of  your 
own  driving.  It  is  said  that  a  flood-tide,  with  a 
westerly  wind,  and  ice  in  the  Neva,  would  sweep 
St.  Petersburg  from  the  face  of  the  earth. 

As  this  business  was  to  be  entered  into  without 
the  usual  capital,  it  may  not  be  easy  to  conjee- 


ture  where  those  means,  that  will  still  be  indis 
pensable  to  every  such  undertaking,  were  to  be 
obtained.  As  for  Clothing,  to  come  at  once  to 
the  practical  part  of  the  question,  perhaps  we 
are  led  oftener  by  the  love  of  novelty,  and  a 
regard  for  the  opinions  of  men,  in  procuring  it, 
than  by  a  true  utility.  Let  him  who  has  work 
to  do  recollect  that  the  object  of  clothing  is, 
first,  to  retain  the  vital  heat,  and  secondly,  in 
this  state  of  society,  to  cover  nakedness,  and  he 
may  judge  how  much  of  any  necessary  or  impor 
tant  work  may  be  accomplished  without  adding 
to  his  wardrobe.  Kings  and  queens  who  wear 
a  suit  but  once,  though  made  by  some  tailor  or 
dressmaker  to  their  majesties,  cannot  know  the 
comfort  of  wearing  a  suit  that  fits/  They  are 
no  better  than  wooden  horses  to  hang  the  clean 
clothes  on.  Every  day  our  garments  become 
more  assimilated  to  ourselves,  receiving  the 
impress  of  the  wearer's  character,  until  we 
hesitate  to  lay  them  aside,  without  such  delay 
and  medical  appliances  and  some  such  solemnity 
even  as  our  bodies.  No  man  ever  stood  the 
lower  in  my  estimation  for  having  a  patch  in 
his  clothes;  yet  I  am  sure  that  there  is  greater 
anxiety,  commonly,  to  have  fashionable,  or  at 
least  clean  and  unpatched,  clothes  than  to  have 
a  sound  conscience.  But  even  if  the  rent  is  not 
mended,  perhaps  the  worst  vice  betrayed  is 
improvidence.  I  sometimes  try  my  acquaint- 


ances  by  such  tests  as  this ;  -  -  who  could  wear 
a  patch,  or  two  extra  seams  only,  over  the  knee  ? 
Most  behave  as  if  they  believed  that  their  pros 
pects  for  life  would  be  ruined  if  they  should  do 
it.  It  would  be  easier  for  them  to  hobble  to 
town  with  a  broken  leg  than  with  a  broken 
pantaloon.  Often  if  an  accident  happens  to  a 
gentleman's  legs,  they  can  be  mended;  but  if 
a  similar  accident  happens  to  the  legs  of  his 
pantaloons,  there  is  no  help  for  it;  for  he  con 
siders,  not  what  is  truly  respectable,  but  what 
is  respected.  We  know  but  few  men,  a  great 
many  coats  and  breeches.  Dress  a  scarecrow 
in  your  last  shift,  you  standing  shiftless  by,  who 
would  not  soonest  salute  the  scarecrow  ?  Pass 
ing  a  cornfield  the  other  day,  close  by  a  hat  and 
coat  on  a  stake,  I  recognized  the  owner  of  the 
farm.  He  was  only  a  little  more  weather- 
beaten  than  when  I  saw  him  last.  I  have  heard 
of  a  dog  that  barked  at  every  stranger  who 
approached  his  master's  premises  with  clothes 
on,  but  was  easily  quieted  by  a  naked  thief. 
It  is  an  interesting  question  how  far  men  would 
retain  their  relative  rank  if  they  were  divested 
of  their  clothes.  Could  you,  in  such  a  case,  tell 
surely  of  any  company  of  civilized  men,  which 
belonged  to  the  most  respected  class  ?  When 
Madam  Pfeiffer,  in  her  adventurous  travels 
round  the  w^orld,  from  east  to  west,  had  got  so 
near  home  as  Asiatic  Russia,  she  says  that  she 


felt  the  necessity  of  wearing  other  than  a  travel 
ling  dress,  when  she  went  to  meet  the  authori 
ties,  for  she  "was  now  in  a  civilized  coun 
try,  where  .  .  .  people  are  judged  of  by  their 
clothes."  Even  in  our  democratic  New  England 
towns  the  accidental  possession  of  wealth,  and 
its  manifestation  in  dress  and  equipage  alone, 
obtain  for  the  possessor  almost  universal  respect. 
But  they  who  yield  such  respect,  numerous  as 
they  are,  are  so  far  heathen,  and  need  to  have 
a  missionary  sent  to  them.  Besides,  clothes 
introduced  sewing,  a  kind  of  work  which  you 
may  call  endless;  a  woman's  dress,  at  least,  is 
never  done. 

A  man  who  has  at  length  found  something  to 
do  will  not  need  to  get  a  new  suit  to  do  it  in; 
for  him  the  old  will  do,  that  has  lain  dusty  in 
the  garret  for  an  indeterminate  period.  Old 
shoes  will  serve  a  hero  longer  than  they  have 
served  his  valet,  —  if  a  hero  ever  has  a  valet,  — 
bare  feet  are  older  than  shoes,  and  he  can  make 
them  do.  Only  they  who  go  to  soirees  and 
legislative  halls  must  have  new  coats,  coats  to 
change  as  often  as  the  man  changes  in  them. 
But  if  my  jacket  and  trousers,  my  hat  and  shoes, 
are  fit  to  worship  God  in,  they  will  do;  will 
they  not  ?  Who  ever  saw  his  old  clothes,  - 
his  old  coat,  actually  worn  out,  resolved  into 
its  primitive  elements,  so  that  it  was  not  a  deed 
of  charity  to  bestow  it  on  some  poor  boy,  by 


him  perchance  to  be  bestowed  on  some  poorer 
still,  or  shall  we  say  richer,  who  could  do  with 
less  ?  I  say,  beware  of  all  enterprises  that  re 
quire  new  clothes,  and  not  rather  a  new  wearer 
of  clothes.  If  there  is  not  a  new  man,  how  can 
the  new  clothes  be  made  to  fit  ?  If  you  have 
any  enterprise  before  you,  try  it  in  your  old 
clothes.  All  men  want,  not  something  to  do 
with,  but  something  to  do,  or  rather  something 
to  be.  Perhaps  we  should  never  procure  a  new 
suit,  however  ragged  or  dirty  the  old,  until  we 
have  so  conducted,  so  enterprised  or  sailed  in 
some  way,  that  we  feel  like  new  men  in  the  old, 
and  that  to  retain  it  would  be  like  keeping  new 
wine  in  old  bottles.  Our  moulting  season,  like 
that  of  the  fowls,  must  be  a  crisis  in  our  lives. 
The  loon  retires  to  solitary  ponds  to  spend  it. 
Thus  also  the  snake  casts  its  slough,  and  the 
caterpillar  its  wormy  coat,  by  an  internal 
industry  and  expansion;  for  clothes  are  but  our 
outmost  cuticle  and  mortal  coil.  Otherwise  we 
shall  be  found  sailing  under  false  colors,  and  be 
inevitably  cashiered  at  last  by  our  own  opinion, 
as  well  as  that  of  mankind. 

We  don  garment  after  garment,  as  if  we  grew 
like  exogenous  plants  by  addition  without.  Our 
outside  and  often  thin  and  fanciful  clothes  are 
our  epidermis  or  false  skin,  which  partakes  not 
of  our  life,  and  may  be  stripped  off  here  and 
there  without  fatal  injury;  our  thicker  gar- 


ments,  constantly  worn,  are  our  cellular  integu 
ment,  or  cortex;  but  our  shirts  are  our  liber  or 
true  bark,  which  cannot  be  removed  without 
girdling  and  so  destroying  the  man.  I  believe 
that  all  races  at  some  seasons  wear  something 
equivalent  to  the  shirt.  It  is  desirable  that  a 
man  be  clad  so  simply  that  he  can  lay  his  hands 
on  himself  in  the  dark,  and  that  he  live  in  all 
respects  so  compactly  and  preparedly  that,  if 
an  enemy  take  the  town,  he  can,  like  the  old 
philosopher,  walk  out  the  gate  empty-handed 
without  anxiety.  While  one  thick  garment  is, 
for  most  purposes,  as  good  as  three  thin  ones, 
and  cheap  clothing  can  be  obtained  at  prices 
really  to  suit  customers;  while  a  thick  coat  can 
be  bought  for  five  dollars,  wilich  will  last  as 
many  years,  thick  pantaloons  for  two  dollars, 
cowhide  boots  for  a  dollar  and  a  half  a  pair, 
a  summer  hat  for  a  quarter  of  a  dollar,  and  a 
winter  cap  for  sixty-twro  and  a  half  cents,  or  a 
better  be  made  at  home  at  a  nominal  cost,  where 
is  he  so  poor  that,  clad  in  such  a  suit,  of  his  own 
earning,  there  will  not  be  found  wise  men  to  do 
him  reverence  ? 

When  I  ask  for  a  garment  of  a  particular  form, 
my  tailoress  tells  me  gravely,  "They  do  not 
make  them  so  now,"  not  emphasizing  the 
"They"  at  all,  as  if  she  quoted  an  authority  as 
impersonal  as  the  Fates,  and  I  find  it  difficult 
to  get  made  what  I  want,  simply  because  she 


cannot  believe  that  I  mean  what  I  say,  that  I 
am  so  rash.  When  I  hear  this  oracular  sen 
tence,  I  am  for  a  moment  absorbed  in  thought, 
emphasizing  to  myself  each  word  separately 
that  I  may  come  at  the  meaning  of  it,  that  I 
may  find  out  by  wrhat  degree  of  consanguinity 
They  are  related  to  me,  and  what  authority  they 
may  have  in  an  affair  which  affects  me  so  nearly ; 
and,  finally,  I  am  inclined  to  answer  her  with 
equal  mystery,  and  without  any  more  emphasis 
of  the  "they,"  -  "It  is  true,  they  did  not  make 
them  so  recently,  but  they  do  now7."  Of  what 
use  this  measuring  of  me  if  she  does  not  measure 
my  character,  but  only  the  breadth  of  my 
shoulders,  as  it  were  a  peg  to  hang  the  coat  on  ? 
We  worship  not  the  Graces,  nor  the  Parcse,  but 
Fashion.  She  spins  and  weaves  and  cuts  with 
full  authority.  The  head  monkey  at  Paris  puts 
on  a  traveller's  cap,  and  all  the  monkeys  in 
America  do  the  same.  I  sometimes  despair 
of  getting  anything  quite  simple  and  honest 
done  in  this  world  by  the  help  of  men.  They 
would  have  to  be  passed  through  a  powerful 
press  first,  to  squeeze  their  old  notions  out  of 
them,  so  that  they  would  not  soon  get  upon 
their  legs  again,  and  then  there  would  be  some 
one  in  the  company  with  a  maggot  in  his  head, 
hatched  from  an  egg  deposited  there  nobody 
knows  when,  for  not  even  fire  kills  these  things, 
and  you  would  have  lost  your  labor.  Never- 


theless  we  will  not  forget  that  some  Egyptian 
wheat  was  handed  down  to  us  by  a  mummy. 

On  the  whole,  I  think  that  it  cannot  be  main 
tained  that  dressing  has  in  this  or  any  country 
risen  to  the  dignity  of  an  art.  At  present,  men 
make  shift  to  wear  what  they  can  get.  Like 
shipwrecked  sailors,  they  put  on  what  they 
can  find  on  the  beach,  and  at  a  little  distance, 
whether  of  space  or  time,  laugh  at  each  other's 
masquerade.  Every  generation  laughs  at  the 
old  fashions,  but  follows  religiously  the  new. 
We  are  amused  at  beholding  the  costume  of 
Henry  VIII.,  or  Queen  Elizabeth,  as  much  as 
if  it  was  that  of  the  King  and  Queen  of  the  Can 
nibal  Islands.  All  costume  off  a  man  is  pitiful 
or  grotesque.  It  is  only  the  serious  eye  peer 
ing  from  and  the  sincere  life  passed  within  it, 
which  restrain  laughter  and  consecrate  the 
costume  of  any  people.  Let  Harlequin  be  taken 
with  a  fit  of  colic  and  his  trappings  will  have  to 
serve  that  mood  too.  When  the  soldier  is  hit  by 
a  cannon  ball,  rags  are  as  becoming  as  purple. 

The  childish  and  savage  taste  of  men  and 
women  for  new  patterns  keeps  how  many  shak 
ing  and  squinting  through  kaleidoscopes  that 
they  may  discover  the  particular  figure  which 
this  generation  requires  to-day.  The  manu 
facturers  have  learned  that  this  taste  is  merely 
whimsical.  Of  two  patterns  which  differ  only 
by  a  few  threads  more  or  less  of  a  particular 


color,  the  one  will  be  sold  readily,  the  other  lie 
on  the  shelf,  though  it  frequently  happens  that 
after  the  lapse  of  a  season  the  latter  becomes  the 
most  fashionable.  Comparatively,  tattooing  is 
not  the  hideous  custom  which  it  is  called.  It 
is  not  barbarous  merely  because  the  printing 
is  skin-deep  and  unalterable. 

I  cannot  believe  that  our  factory  system  is  the 
best  mode  by  which  men  may  get  clothing.  The 
condition  of  the  operatives  is  becoming  every 
day  more  like  that  of  the  English ;  and  it  cannot 
be  wondered  at,  since,  as  far  as  I  have  heard  or 
observed,  the  principal  object  is,  not  that  man 
kind  may  be  well  and  honestly  clad,  but,  un 
questionably,  that  the  corporations  may  be 
enriched.  In  the  long  run  men  hit  only  what 
they  aim  at.  Therefore,  though  they  should 
fail  immediately,  they  had  better  aim  at  some 
thing  high. 

As  for  a  Shelter,  I  will  not  deny  that  this  is 
now  a  necessary  of  life,  though  there  are  instances 
of  men  having  done  without  it  for  long  periods 
in  colder  countries  than  this.  Samuel  Laing 
says  that  "The  Laplander  in  his  skin  dress,  and 
in  a  skin  bag  which  he  puts  over  his  head  and 
shoulders,  will  sleep  night  after  night  on  the 
snow  ...  in  a  degree  of  cold  which  would 
extinguish  the  life  of  one  exposed  to  it  in  any 
woollen  clothing."  He  has  seen  them  asleep 


thus.    Yet  he  adds,  "They  are  not  hardier  than 
other  people."    But,  probably,  man  did  not  live 
long  on  the  earth  without  discovering  the  con 
venience  which  there  is  in  a  house,  the  domestic 
comforts,    which    phrase    may    have    originally 
signified  the  satisfactions  of  the  house  more  than 
of  the  family;    though  these  must  be  extremely 
partial  and  occasional  in  those  climates  where 
the   house   is   associated   in   our   thoughts  with 
winter  or  the  rainy  season  chiefly,  and  two  thirds 
of  the  year,  except  for  a  parasol,  is  unnecessary. 
In  our  climate,  in  the  summer,  it  was  formerly 
almost  solely  a  covering  at  night.    In  the  Indian 
gazettes  a  wigwam  was  the  symbol  of  a  day's 
march,  and  a  row  of  them  cut  or  painted  on  the 
bark  of  a  tree  signified  that  so  many  times  they 
had    camped.      Man  was    not    made    so    large 
limbed  and  robust  but  that  he  must  seek  to 
narrow  his  world,  and  wall  in  a  space  such  as 
fitted  him.    He  was  at  first  bare  and  out  of  doors ; 
but  though  this  was  pleasant  enough  in  serene 
and  warm  weather,  by  daylight,  the  rainy  season 
and  the  winter,  to  say  nothing  of  the  torrid  sun, 
would  perhaps  have  nipped  his  race  in  the  bud 
if  he  had  not  made  haste  to  clothe  himself  with 
the  shelter  of  a  house.    Adam  and  Eve,  accord 
ing  to  the  fable,  wore  the  bower  before  other 
clothes.    Man  wanted  a  home,  a  place  of  warmth, 
or  comfort,  first  of  physical  warmth,  then  the 
warmth  of  the  affections. 


We  may  imagine  a  time  when,  in  the  infancy 
of  the  human  race,  some  enterprising  mortal 
crept  into  a  hollow  in  a  rock  for  shelter.  Every 
child  begins  the  world  again,  to  some  extent, 
and  loves  to  stay  out  doors,  even  in  wet  and  cold. 
It  plays  house,  as  well  as  horse,  having  an 
instinct  for  it.  Who  does  not  remember  the 
interest  with  which  when  young  he  looked  at 
shelving  rocks,  or  any  approach  to  a  cave?  It 
was  the  natural  yearning  of  that  portion  of  our 
most  primitive  ancestor  which  still  survived  in 
us.  From  the  cave  we  have  advanced  to  roofs 
of  palm  leaves,  of  bark  and  boughs,  of  linen 
woven  and  stretched,  of  grass  and  straw,  of 
boards  and  shingles,  of  stones  and  tiles.  At 
last,  we  know  not  what  it  is  to  live  in  the  open 
air,  and  our  lives  are  domestic  in  more  senses 
than  we  think.  From  the  hearth  to  the  field 
is  a  great  distance.  It  would  be  well  perhaps 
if  we  were  to  spend  more  of  our  days  and  nights 
without  any  obstruction  between  us  and  the 
celestial  bodies,  if  the  poet  did  not  speak  so 
much  from  under  a  roof,  or  the  saint  dwell  there 
so  long.  Birds  do  not  sing  in  caves,  nor  do 
doves  cherish  their  innocence  in  dovecots. 

However,  if  one  designs  to  construct  a  dwelling 
house,  it  behooves  him  to  exercise  a  little  Yankee 
shrewdness,  lest  after  all  he  find  himself  in  a 
work-house,  a  labyrinth  without  a  clew,  a  mu 
seum,  an  almshouse,  a  prison,  or  a  splendid 


mausoleum  instead.  Consider  first  how  slight 
a  shelter  is  absolutely  necessary.  I  have  seen 
Penobscot  Indians,  in  this  town,  living  in  tents 
of  thin  cotton  cloth,  while  the  snow  was  nearly 
a  foot  deep  around  them,  and  I  thought  that 
they  would  be  glad  to  have  it  deeper  to  keep  out 
the  wind.  Formerly,  when  how  to  get  my  living 
honestly,  with  freedom  left  for  my  proper  pur 
suits,  was  a  question  which  vexed  me  even  more 
than  it  does  now,  for  unfortunately  I  am  become 
somewhat  callous,  I  used  to  see  a  large  box  by 
the  railroad,  six  feet  long  by  three  wide,  in  which 
the  laborers  locked  up  their  tools  at  night,  and 
it  suggested  to  me  that  every  man  who  was  hard 
pushed  might  get  such  a  one  for  a  dollar,  and, 
having  bored  a  few  auger  holes  in  it,  to  admit 
the  air  at  least,  get  into  it  when  it  rained  and  at 
night,  and  hook  down  the  lid,  and  so  have  free 
dom  in  his  love,  and  in  his  soul  be  free.  This 
did  not  appear  the  worst,  nor  by  any  means  a 
despicable  alternative.  You  could  sit  up  as 
late  as  you  pleased,  and,  whenever  you  got  up, 
go  abroad  without  any  landlord  or  house-lord 
dogging  you  for  rent.  Many  a  man  is  harassed 
to  death  to  pay  the  rent  of  a  larger  and  more 
luxurious  box  who  would  not  have  frozen  to 
death  in  such  a  box  as  this.  I  am  far  from  jest 
ing.  Economy  is  a  subject  which  admits  of 
being  treated  with  levity,  but  it  cannot  so  be 
disposed  of.  A  comfortable  house  for  a  rude 


and  hardy  race,  that  lived  mostly  out  of  doors, 
was  once  made  here  almost  entirely  of  such 
materials  as  Nature  furnished  ready  to  their 
hands.  Goodkin,  who  was  superintendent  of 
the  Indians  subject  to  the  Massachusetts  Colony, 
writing  in  1674,  says,  "The  best  of  their  houses 
are  covered  very  neatly,  tight  and  warm,  with 
barks  of  trees,  slipped  from  their  bodies  at  those 
seasons  when  the  sap  is  up,  and  made  into  great 
flakes,  with  pressure  of  weighty  timber,  when 
they  are  green.  .  .  .  The  meaner  sort  are  cov 
ered  with  mats  which  they  make  of  a  kind  of 
bulrush,  and  are  also  indifferently  tight  and 
warm,  but  not  so  good  as  the  former.  .  .  .  Some 
I  have  seen,  sixty  or  a  hundred  feet  long  and 
thirty  feet  broad.  ...  I  have  often  lodged  in 
their  wigwams,  and  found  them  as  warm  as  the 
best  English  houses."  He  adds  that  they  were 
commonly  carpeted  and  lined  within  with  well- 
wrought  embroidered  mats,  and  were  furnished 
with  various  utensils.  The  Indians  had  ad 
vanced  so  far  as  to  regulate  the  effect  of  the 
wind  by  a  mat  suspended  over  the  hole  in  the 
roof  and  moved  by  a  string.  Such  a  lodge  was 
in  the  first  instance  constructed  in  a  day  or  two 
at  most,  and  taken  down  and  put  up  in  a  few 
hours ;  and  every  family  owned  one,  or  its  apart 
ment  in  one. 

In  the  savage  state  every  family  owns  a  shelter 
as  good  as  the  best,  and  sufficient  for  its  coarser 


and  simpler  wants;  but  I  think  that  I  speak 
within  bounds  when  I  say  that,  though  the  birds 
of  the  air  have  their  nests,  and  the  foxes  their 
holes,  and  the  savages  their  wigwams,  in  modern 
civilized  society  not  more  than  one  half  the 
families  own  a  shelter.  In  the  large  towns  and 
cities,  where  civilization  especially  prevails,  the 
number  of  those  who  own  a  shelter  is  a  very 
small  fraction  of  the  whole.  The  rest  pay  an 
annual  tax  for  this  outside  garment  of  all,  be 
come  indispensable  summer  and  winter,  which 
would  buy  a  village  of  Indian  wigwams,  but  now 
helps  to  keep  them  poor  as  long  as  they  live. 
I  do  not  mean  to  insist  here  on  the  disadvantage 
of  hiring  compared  with  owning,  but  it  is  evident 
that  the  savage  owns  his  shelter  because  it  costs 
so  little,  while  the  civilized  man  hires  his  com 
monly  because  he  cannot  afford  to  own  it;  nor 
can  he,  in  the  long  run,  any  better  afford  to  hire. 
But,  answers  one,  by  merely  paying  this  tax 
the  poor  civilized  man  secures  an  abode  which 
is  a  palace  compared  with  the  savage's.  An 
annual  rent  of  from  twenty-five  to  a  hundred 
dollars,  these  are  the  country  rates,  entitles  him 
to  the  benefit  of  the  improvements  of  centuries, 
spacious  apartments,  clean  paint  and  paper, 
Rumford  fire-place,  back  plastering,  Venetian 
blinds,  copper  pump,  spring  lock,  a  commodi 
ous  cellar,  and  many  other  things.  But  how 
happens  it  that  he  who  is  said  to  enjoy  these 


things  is  so  commonly  a  poor  civilized  man, 
while  the  savage,  who  has  them  not,  is  rich  as 
a  savage  ?  If  it  is  asserted  that  civilization  is 
a  real  advance  in  the  condition  of  man,  —  and  I 
think  that  it  is,  though  only  the  wise  improve 
their  advantages,  —  it  must  be  shown  that  it  has 
produced  better  dwellings  without  making  them 
more  costly ;  and  the  cost  of  a  thing  is  the  amount 
of  what  I  will  call  life  which  is  required  to  be 
exchanged  for  it,  immediately  or  in  the  long  run. 
An  average  house  in  this  neighborhood  costs 
perhaps  eight  hundred  dollars,  and  to  lay  up 
this  sum  will  take  from  ten  to  fifteen  years  of 
the  laborer's  life,  even  if  he  is  not  encumbered 
with  a  family ;  —  estimating  the  pecuniary  value 
of  every  man's  labor  at  one  dollar  a  day,  for  if 
some  receive  more,  others  receive  less ;  —  so 
that  he  must  have  spent  more  than  half  his  life 
commonly  before  his  wigwam  will  be  earned. 
If  we  suppose  him  to  pay  a  rent  instead,  this 
is  but  a  doubtful  choice  of  evils.  Would  the 
savage  have  been  wise  to  exchange  his  wigwam 
for  a  palace  on  these  terms  ? 

It  may  be  guessed  that  I  reduce  almost  the 
whole  advantage  of  holding  this  superfluous 
property  as  a  fund  in  store  against  the  future, 
so  far  as  the  individual  is  concerned,  mainly  to 
the  defraying  of  funeral  expenses.  But  perhaps 
a  man  is  not  required  to  bury  himself.  Never 
theless  this  points  to  an  important  distinction 


between  the  civilized  man  and  the  savage;  and, 
no  doubt,  they  have  designs  on  us  for  our  bene 
fit,  in  making  the  life  of  a  civilized  people  an 
institution,  in  which  the  life  of  the  individual 
is  to  a  great  extent  absorbed,  in  order  to  preserve 
and  perfect  that  of  the  race.  But  I  wish  to  show 
at  what  a  sacrifice  this  advantage  is  at  present 
obtained,  and  to  suggest  that  we  may  possibly 
so  live  as  to  secure  all  the  advantage  without 
suffering  any  of  the  disadvantage.  What  mean 
ye  by  saying  that  the  poor  ye  have  always  with 
you,  or  that  the  fathers  have  eaten  sour  grapes, 
and  the  children's  teeth  are  set  on  edge  ? 

"As  I  live,  saith  the  Lord  God,  ye  shall  not 
have  occasion  any  more  to  use  this  proverb  in 

"Behold  all  souls  are  mine;  as  the  soul  of 
the  father,  so  also  the  soul  of  the  son  is  mine: 
the  soul  that  sinneth  it  shall  die." 

When  I  consider  my  neighbors,  the  farmers 
of  Concord,  who  are  at  least  as  well  off  as  the 
other  classes,  I  find  that  for  the  most  part  they 
have  been  toiling  twenty,  thirty,  or  forty  years, 
that  they  may  become  the  real  owners  of  their 
farms,  which  commonly  they  have  inherited 
with  encumbrances,  or  else  bought  with  hired 
money,  —  and  we  may  regard  one  third  of  that 
toil  as  the  cost  of  their  houses,  —  but  commonly 
they  have  not  paid  for  them  yet.  It  is  true,  the 
encumbrances  sometimes  outweigh  the  value 


of  the  farm,  so  that  the  farm  itself  becomes  one 
great  encumbrance,  and  still  a  man  is  found  to 
inherit  it,  being  well  acquainted  with  it,  as  he 
says.     On  applying  to  the  assessors,  I  am  sur 
prised  to  learn  that  they  cannot  at  once  name 
a  dozen  in  the  town  who  own  their  farms  free 
and  clear.     If  you  would  know  the  history  of 
these  homesteads,   inquire   at  the   bank   where 
they  are  mortgaged.    The  man  who  has  actually 
paid  for  his  farm  with  labor  on  it  is  so  rare  that 
every  neighbor  can  point  to  him.     I  doubt  if 
there  are  three  such  men  in  Concord.     What 
has  been  said  of  the  merchants,  that  a  very  large 
majority,  even  ninety-seven  in  a  hundred,  are 
sure  to  fail,  is  equally  true  of  the  farmers.    With 
regard  to  the  merchants,  however,  one  of  them 
says  pertinently  that  a  great  part  of  their  failures 
are  not  genuine  pecuniary  failures,  but  merely 
failures  to  fulfil  their  engagements,  because  it 
is  inconvenient ;  that  is,  it  is  the  moral  character 
that  breaks  down.     But  this  puts  an  infinitely 
worse  face  on  the  matter,  and  suggests,  besides, 
that  probably  not  even  the  other  three  succeed 
in  saving  their  souls,  but  are  perchance  bank 
rupt  in  a  worse  sense  than  they  who  fail  honestly. 
Bankruptcy    and    repudiation    are    the    spring 
boards    from    which    much    of    our   civilization 
vaults  and  turns  its  somersets,  but  the  savage 
stands  on  the  unelastic  plank  of  famine.     Yet 
the  Middlesex  Cattle  Show  goes  off  here  with 


eclat  annually,  as  if  all  the  joints  of  the  agricul 
tural  machine  were  suent. 

The  farmer  is  endeavoring  to  solve  the  prob 
lem  of  a  livelihood  by  a  formula  more  compli 
cated  than  the  problem  itself.  To  get  his  shoe 
strings  he  speculates  in  herds  of  cattle.  With 
consummate  skill  he  has  set  his  trap  with  a  hair 
springe  to  catch  comfort  and  independence,  and 
then,  as  he  turned  away,  got  his  own  leg  into  it. 
This  is  the  reason  he  is  poor;  and  for  a  similar 
reason  we  are  all  poor  in  respect  to  a  thousand 
savage  comforts,  though  surrounded  by  luxuries. 
As  Chapman  sings :  — 

"The  false  society  of  men  — 

—  for  earthly  greatness 
All  heavenly  comforts  rarefies  to  air." 

And  when  the  farmer  has  got  his  house,  he 
may  not  be  the  richer  but  the  poorer  for  it,  and 
it  be  the  house  that  has  got  him.  As  I  under 
stand  it,  that  was  a  valid  objection  urged  by 
Momus  against  the  house  which  Minerva  made, 
that  she  "had  not  made  it  movable,  by  which 
means  a  bad  neighborhood  might  be  avoided;" 
and  it  may  still  be  urged,  for  our  houses  are 
such  unwieldy  property  that  we  are  often 
imprisoned  rather  than  housed  in  them;  and 
the  bad  neighborhood  to  be  avoided  is  our  own 
scurvy  selves.  I  know  one  or  two  families,  at 
least,  in  this  town,  who,  for  nearly  a  generation, 


have  been  wishing  to  sell  their  houses  in  the  out 
skirts  and  move  into  the  village,  but  have  not 
been  able  to  accomplish  it,  and  only  death  will 
set  them  free. 

Granted  that  the  majority  are  able  at  last 
either  to  own  or  hire  the  modern  house  with 
all  its  improvements.  While  civilization  has 
been  improving  our  houses,  it  has  not  equally 
improved  the  men  who  are  to  inhabit  them.  It 
has  created  palaces,  but  it  was  not  so  easy  to 
create  noblemen  and  kings.  And  if  the  civilized 
man's  pursuits  are  no  worthier  than  the  savage's, 
if  he  is  employed  the  greater  part  of  his  life  in 
obtaining  gross  necessaries  and  comforts  merely, 
why  should  we  have  a  better  dwelling  than  the 

But  how  do  the  poor  minority  fare  ?  Perhaps 
it  will  be  found  that  just  in  proportion  as  some 
have  been  placed  in  outward  circumstances 
above  the  savage,  others  have  been  degraded 
below  him.  The  hixury  of  one  class  is  counter 
balanced  by  the  indigence  of  another.  On  the 
one  side  is  the  palace,  on  the  other  are  the  alms- 
house  and  "silent  poor."  The  myriads  who 
built  the  pyramids  to  be  the  tombs  of  the  Pha 
raohs  were  fed  on  garlic,  and  it  may  be  were  not 
decently  buried  themselves.  The  mason  who 
finishes  the  cornice  of  the  palace  returns  at  night 
perchance  to  a  hut  not  so  good  as  a  wigwam. 
It  is  a  mistake  to  suppose  that,  in  a  country 


where  the  usual  evidences  of  civilization  exist, 
the  condition  of  a  very  large  body  of  the  inhabit 
ants  may  not  be  as  degraded  as  that  of  savages. 
I  refer  to  the  degraded  poor,   not  now  to  the 
degraded  rich.    To  know  this  I  should  not  need 
to  look  farther  than  to  the  shanties  which  every 
where  border  our  railroads,  that  last  improve 
ment  in  civilization;    where  I  see  in  my  daily 
walks  human  beings  living  in  sties,  and  all  winter 
with  an  open  door,  for  the  sake  of  light,  without 
any  visible,   often  imaginable,   wood  pile,   and 
the  forms  of  both  old  and  young  are  perma 
nently  contracted  by  the  long  habit  of  shrinking 
from  cold  and  misery,  and  the  development  of 
all    their   limbs    and    faculties   is    checked.      It 
certainly  is  fair  to  look  at  that  class  by  whose 
labor  the  works  which  distinguish  this  genera 
tion  are  accomplished.     Such  too,  to  a  greater 
or  less  extent,  is  the  condition  of  the  operatives 
of   every   denomination   in   England,    which   is 
the  great  workhouse  of  the  world.     Or  I  could 
refer  you  to  Ireland,  which  is  marked  as  one  of 
the    white    or    enlightened    spots    on    the    map. 
Contrast  the  physical  condition  of  the  Irish  with 
that  of  the  North  American  Indian,  or  the  South 
Sea  Islander,  or  any  other  savage  race  before 
it  was  degraded  by  contact  with  the  civilized 
man.     Yet  I  have  no  doubt  that  that  people's 
rulers  are  as  wise  as  the  average  of  civilized 
rulers.       Their    condition     only     proves     what 


squalidness  may  consist  with  civilization.  I 
hardly  need  refer  now  to  the  laborers  of  our 
Southern  States  who  produce  the  staple  exports 
of  this  Country,  and  are  themselves  a  staple 
production  of  the  South.  But  to  confine  myself 
to  those  who  are  said  to  be  in  moderate  circum 

Most  men  appear  never  to  have  considered 
what  a  house  is,  and  are  actually  though  need 
lessly  poor  all  their  lives  because  they  think 
that  they  must  have  such  a  one  as  their  neigh 
bors  have.  As  if  one  were  to  wear  any  sort  of 
coat  which  the  tailor  might  cut  out  for  him,  or, 
gradually  leaving  off  palmleaf  hat  or  cap  of 
woodchuck  skin,  complain  of  hard  times  be 
cause  he  could  not  afford  to  buy  him  a  crown ! 
It  is  possible  to  invent  a  house  still  more  conven 
ient  and  luxurious  than  we  have,  which  yet  all 
would  admit  that  man  could  not  afford  to  pay 
for.  Shall  we  always  study  to  obtain  more  of 
these  things,  and  not  sometimes  to  be  content 
with  less  ?  Shall  the  respectable  citizen  thus 
gravely  teach,  by  precept  and  example,  the  neces 
sity  of  the  young  man's  providing  a  certain  num 
ber  of  superfluous  glowshoes,  and  umbrellas, 
and  empty  guest  chambers  for  empty  guests, 
before  he  dies  ?  Why  should  not  our  furniture 
oe  as  simple  as  the  Arab's  or  the  Indian's  ? 
When  I  think  of  the  benefactors  of  the  race, 
whom  we  have  apotheosized  as  messengers  from 


heaven,  bearers  of  divine  gifts  to  man,  I  do  not 
see  in  my  mind  any  retinue  at  their  heels,  any 
car-load  of  fashionable  furniture.  Or  what  if 
I  were  to  allow  —  would  it  not  be  a  singular 
allowance  ?  —  that  our  furniture  should  be  more 
complex  than  the  Arab's,  in  proportion  as  we 
are  morally  and  intellectually  his  superiors ! 
At  present  our  houses  are  cluttered  and  defiled 
with  it,  and  a  good  housewife  would  sweep  out 
the  greater  part  into  the  dust  hole,  and  not  leave 
her  morning's  work  undone.  Morning  work ! 
By  the  blushes  of  Aurora  and  the  music  of 
Memnon,  what  should  be  man's  morning  work 
in  this  world  ?  I  had  three  pieces  of  limestone  on 
my  desk,  but  I  was  terrified  to  find  that  they 
required  to  be  dusted  daily,  when  the  furniture 
of  my  mind  was  all  undusted  still,  and  I  threw 
them  out  the  window  in  disgust.  How,  then, 
could  I  have  a  furnished  house  ?  I  would  rather 
sit  in  the  open  air,  for  no  dust  gathers  on  the 
grass,  unless  where  man  has  broken  ground. 

It  is  the  luxurious  and  dissipated  who  set  the 
fashions  which  the  herd  so  diligently  follow. 
The  traveller  who  stops  at  the  best  houses,  so 
called,  soon  discovers  this,  for  the  publicans  pre 
sume  him  to  be  a  Sardanapalus,  and  if  he  re 
signed  himself  to  their  tender  mercies  he  would 
soon  be  completely  emasculated.  I  think  that 
in  the  railroad  car  we  are  inclined  to  spend 
more  on  luxury  than  on  safety  and  convenience, 


and  it  threatens  without  attaining  these  to  be 
come  no  better  than  a  modern  drawing-room, 
with  its  divans,  and  ottomans,  and  sunshades, 
and  a  hundred  other  Oriental  things,  which  we 
are  taking  west  with  us,  invented  for  the  ladies 
of  the  harem  and  the  effeminate  natives  of  the 
Celestial  Empire,  which  Jonathan  should  be 
ashamed  to  know  the  names  of.  I  would  rather 
sit  on  a  pumpkin  and  have  it  all  to  myself,  than 
be  crowded  on  a  velvet  cushion.  I  would  rather 
ride  on  earth  in  an  ox  cart  with  a  free  circula 
tion,  than  go  to  heaven  in  the  fancy  car  of  an 
excursion  train  and  breathe  a  malaria  all  the 

The  very  simplicity  and  nakedness  of  man's 
life  in  the  primitive  ages  imply  this  advantage 
at  least,  that  they  left  him  still  but  a  sojourner 
in  nature.  When  he  was  refreshed  with  food 
and  sleep,  he  contemplated  his  journey  again. 
He  dwelt,  as  it  were,  in  a  tent  in  this  world,  and 
was  either  threading  the  valleys,  or  crossing  the 
plains,  or  climbing  the  mountain  tops.  But  lo ! 
men  have  become  the  tools  of  their  tools.  The 
man  who  independently  plucked  the  fruits  when 
he  was  hungry  is  become  a  farmer :  and  he  who 
stood  under  a  tree  for  shelter,  a  housekeeper. 
We  now  no  longer  camp  as  for  a  night,  but  have 
settled  down  on  earth  and  forgotten  heaven.  We 
have  adopted  Christianity  merely  as  an  improved 
method  of  agri-culture.  We  have  built  for  this 


world  a  family  mansion,  and  for  the  next  a  family 
tomb.  The  best  works  of  art  are  the  expression 
of  man's  struggle  to  free  himself  from  this  con 
dition,  but  the  effect  of  our  art  is  merely  to  make 
this  low  state  comfortable  and  that  higher  state 
to  be  forgotten.  There  is  actually  no  place  in 
this  village  for  a  work  of  fine  art,  if  any  had  come 
down  to  us,  to  stand,  for  our  lives,  our  houses  and 
streets,  furnish  no  proper  pedestal  for  it.  There 
is  not  a  nail  to  hang  a  picture  on,  nor  a  shelf  to 
receive  the  bust  of  a  hero  or  a  saint.  When  I 
consider  how  our  houses  are  built  and  paid  for, 
or  not  paid  for,  and  their  internal  economy  man 
aged  and  sustained,  I  wonder  that  the  floor  does 
not  give  way  under  the  visitor  while  he  is  ad 
miring  the  gewgaws  upon  the  mantel-piece,  and 
let  him  through  into  the  cellar,  to  some  solid  and 
honest  though  earthy  foundation.  I  cannot  but 
perceive  that  this  so-called  rich  and  refined  life 
is  a  thing  jumped  at,  and  I  do  not  get  on  in  the 
enjoyment  of  the  fine  arts  which  adorn  it,  my 
attention  being  wholly  occupied  with  the  jump ; 
for  I  remember  that  the  greatest  genuine  leap, 
due  to  human  muscles  alone,  on  record  is  that 
of  certain  wandering  Arabs,  who  are  said  to  have 
cleared  twenty-five  feet  on  level  ground.  With 
out  factitious  support,  man  is  sure  to  come  to 
earth  again  beyond  that  distance.  The  first 
question  which  I  am  tempted  to  put  to  the  pro 
prietor  of  such  great  impropriety  is,  Who  bol- 


sters  you  ?  Are  you  one  of  the  ninety-seven  who 
fail,  or  the  three  who  succeed  ?  Answer  me  these 
questions,  and  then  perhaps  I  may  look  at  your 
baubles  and  find  them  ornamental.  The  cart 
before  the  horse  is  neither  beautiful  nor  useful. 
Before  we  can  adorn  our  houses  with  beautiful 
objects  the  walls  must  be  stripped,  and  our  lives 
must  be  stripped,  and  beautiful  housekeeping 
and  beautiful  living  be  laid  for  a  foundation: 
now,  a  taste  for  the  beautiful  is  most  cultivated 
out  of  doors,  where  there  is  no  house  and  no 

Old  Johnson,  in  his  "Wonder- Working  Provi 
dence,"  speaking  of  the  first  settlers  of  this  town, 
with  whom  he  was  contemporary,  tells  us  that 
"they  burrow  themselves  in  the  earth  for  their 
first  shelter  under  some  hillside,  and,  casting  the 
soil  aloft  upon  timber,  they  make  a  smoky  fire 
against  the  earth,  at  the  highest  side."  They 
did  not  "provide  them  houses,"  says  he,  "till  the 
earth,  by  the  Lord's  blessing,  brought  forth 
bread  to  feed  them,"  and  the  first  year's  crop 
was  so  light  that  "they  were  forced  to  cut  their 
bread  very  thin  for  a  long  season."  The  secre 
tary  of  the  Province  of  New  Netherland,  writ 
ing  in  Dutch,  in  1650,  for  the  information  of 
those  who  wished  to  take  up  land  there,  states 
more  particularly,  that  "those  in  New  Nether- 
land,  and  especially  in  New  England,  who  have 
no  means  to  build  farm  houses  at  first  according 


to  their  wishes,  dig  a  square  pit  in  the  ground, 
cellar  fashion,  six  or  seven  feet  deep,  as  long  and 
as  broad  as  they  think  proper,  case  the  earth 
inside  with  wood  all  round  the  wall,  and  line  the 
wood  with  the  bark  of  trees  or  something  else  to 
prevent  the  caving  in  of  the  earth;  floor  this 
cellar  with  plank,  and  wainscot  it  overhead  for  a 
ceiling,  raise  a  roof  of  spars  clear  up,  and  cover 
the  spars  with  bark  or  green  sods,  so  that  they 
can  live  dry  and  warm  in  these  houses  with  their 
entire  families  for  two,  three,  and  four  years,  it 
being  understood  that  partitions  are  run  through 
those  cellars,  which  are  adapted  to  the  size  of 
the  family.  The  wealthy  and  principal  men  in 
New  England,  in  the  beginning  of  the  colonies, 
commenced  their  first  dwelling  houses  in  this 
fashion  for  two  reasons:  firstly,  in  order  not  to 
waste  time  in  building,  and  not  to  want  food  the 
next  season ;  secondly,  in  order  not  to  discourage 
poor  laboring  people  whom  they  brought  over  in 
numbers  from  Fatherland.  In  the  course  of  three 
or  four  years,  when  the  country  became  adapted 
to  agriculture,  they  built  themselves  handsome 
houses,  spending  on  them  several  thousands." 

In  this  course  which  our  ancestors  took  there 
was  a  show  of  prudence  at  least,  as  if  their  prin 
ciple  were  to  satisfy  the  more  pressing  wants 
first.  But  are  the  more  pressing  wants  satisfied 
now?  When  I  think  of  acquiring  for  myself 
one  of  our  luxurious  dwellings,  I  am  deterred, 


for,  so  to  speak,  the  country  is  not  yet  adapted  to 
human  culture,  and  we  are  still  forced  to  cut  our 
spiritual  bread  far  thinner  than  our  forefathers 
did  their  wheaten.  Not  that  all  architectural 
ornament  is  to  be  neglected  even  in  the  rudest 
period;  but  let  our  houses  first  be  lined  with 
beauty,  where  they  come  in  contact  with  our 
lives,  like  the  tenement  of  the  shellfish,  and  not 
overlaid  with  it.  But,  alas  !  I  have  been  inside 
one  or  two  of  them,  and  know  what  they  are 
lined  with. 

Though  we  are  not  so  degenerate  but  that  we 
might  possibly  live  in  a  cave  or  a  wigwam  or 
wear  skins  to-day,  it  certainly  is  better  to  accept 
the  advantages,  though  so  dearly  bought,  which 
the  invention  and  industry  of  mankind  offer.  In 
such  a  neighborhood  as  this,  boards  and  shingles, 
lime  and  bricks,  are  cheaper  and  more  easily 
obtained  than  suitable  caves,  or  whole  logs,  or 
bark  in  sufficient  quantities,  or  even  well-tem 
pered  clay  or  flat  stones.  I  speak  understand- 
ingly  on  this  subject,  for  I  have  made  myself 
acquainted  with  it  both  theoretically  and  prac 
tically.  With  a  little  more  wit  we  might  use  these 
materials  so  as  to  become  richer  than  the  richest 
now  are,  and  make  our  civilization  a  blessing. 
The  civilized  man  is  a  more  experienced  and 
wiser  savage.  But  to  make  haste  to  my  own 


Near  the  end  of  March,  1845,  I  borrowed  an 
axe  and  went  down  to  the  woods  by  Walden  Pond, 
nearest  to  where  I  intended  to  build  my  house, 
and  began  to  cut  down  some  tall  arrowy  white 
pines,  still  in  their  youth,  for  timber.    It  is  diffi 
cult  to  begin  without  borrowing,  but  perhaps  it 
is  the  most  generous  course  thus  to  permit  your 
fellow-men  to  have  an  interest  in  your  enterprise. 
The  owner  of  the  axe,  as  he  released  his  hold  on 
it,  said  that  it  was  the  apple  of  his  eye;    but  I 
returned  it  sharper  than  I  received  it.    It  was  a 
pleasant  hillside  where  I  worked,  covered  with 
pine  woods,  through  which  I  looked  out  on  the 
pond,  and  a  small  open  field  in  the  woods  where 
pines   and   hickories  were  springing  up.      The 
ice  in  the  pond  was  not  yet  dissolved,  though 
there  were  some  open  spaces,  and  it  was  all  dark 
colored  and  saturated  with  water.     There  were 
some  slight  flurries  of  snow  during  the  days  that 
I  worked  there;    but  for  the  most  part  when  I 
came  out  on  to  the  railroad,  on  my  way  home, 
its  yellow  sand  heap  stretched  away  gleaming  in 
the  hazy  atmosphere,  and  the  rails  shone  in  the 
spring  sun,  and  I  heard  the  lark  and  pewee  and 
other  birds  already  come  to  commence  another 
year  with  us.     They  were  pleasant  spring  days, 
in  which  the  winter  of  man's  discontent  was 
thawing  as  well  as  the  earth,  and  the  life  that  had 
lain  torpid  began  to  stretch  itself.     One  day, 
when  my  axe  had  come  off  and  I  had  cut  a  green 

The  site  of  Thoreau  s  house  in  March 


hickory  for  a  wedge,  driving  it  with  a  stone,  and 
had  placed  the  whole  to  soak  in  a  pond  hole  in 
order  to  swell  the  wood,  I  saw  a  striped  snake 
run  into  the  water,  and  he  lay  on  the  bottom, 
apparently  without  inconvenience,  as  long  as  I 
stayed  there,  or  more  than  a  quarter  of  an  hour ; 
perhaps  because  he  had  not  yet  fairly  come  out 
of  the  torpid  state.  It  appeared  to  me  that  for  a 
like  reason  men  remain  in  their  present  low  and 
primitive  condition;  but  if  they  should  feel  the 
influence  of  the  spring  of  springs  arousing  them, 
they  would  of  necessity  rise  to  a  higher  and  more 
ethereal  life.  I  had  previously  seen  the  snakes 
in  frosty  mornings  in  my  path  with  portions  of 
their  bodies  still  numb  and  inflexible,  waiting 
for  the  sun  to  thaw  them.  On  the  1st  of  April  it 
rained  and  melted  the  ice,  and  in  the  early  part 
of  the  day,  which  was  very  foggy,  I  heard  a  stray 
goose  groping  about  over  the  pond  and  cackling 
as  if  lost,  or  like  the  spirit  of  the  fog. 

So  I  went  on  for  some  days  cutting  and  hew 
ing  timber,  and  also  studs  and  rafters,  all  with 
my  narrow  axe,  not  having  many  communicable 
or  scholar-like  thoughts,  singing  to  myself, - 

Men  say  they  know  many  things; 

But  lo !  they  have  taken  wings, 

The  arts  and  sciences, 

And  a  thousand  appliances; 

The  wind  that  blows 

Is  all  that  anybody  knows. 


I  hewed  the  main  timbers  six  inches  square, 
most  of  the  studs  on  two  sides  only,  and  the 
rafters  and  floor  timbers  on  one  side,  leaving 
the  rest  of  the  bark  on,  so  that  they  were  just  as 
straight  and  much  stronger  than  sawed  ones. 
Each  stick  was  carefully  mortised  or  tenoned  by 
its  stump,  for  I  had  borrowed  other  tools  by  this 
time.  My  days  in  the  woods  were  not  very  long 
ones;  yet  I  usually  carried  my  dinner  of  bread 
and  butter,  and  read  the  newspaper  in  which  it 
was  wrapped,  at  noon,  sitting  amid  the  green 
pine  boughs  which  I  had  cut  off,  and  to  my  bread 
was  imparted  some  of  their  fragrance,  for  my 
hands  were  covered  with  a  thick  coat  of  pitch. 
Before  I  had  done  I  was  more  the  friend  than  the 
foe  of  the  pine  tree,  though  I  had  cut  down  some 
of  them,  having  become  better  acquainted  with 
it.  Sometimes  a  rambler  in  the  wood  was  at 
tracted  by  the  sound  of  my  axe,  and  we  chatted 
pleasantly  over  the  chips  which  I  had  made. 

By  the  middle  of  April,  for  I  made  no  haste  in 
my  work,  but  rather  made  the  most  of  it,  my 
house  was  framed  and  ready  for  the  raising.  I 
had  already  bought  the  shanty  of  James  Collins, 
an  Irishman  who  worked  on  the  Fitchburg  Rail 
road,  for  boards.  James  Collins'  shanty  was 
considered  an  uncommonly  fine  one.  When  I 
called  to  see  it  he  was  not  at  home.  I  walked 
about  the  outside,  at  first  unobserved  from 
within,  the  window  was  so  deep  and  high.  It 


was  of  small  dimensions,  with  a  peaked  cottage 
roof,  and  not  much  else  to  be  seen,  the  dirt  being 
raised  five  feet  all  around  as  if  it  were  a  compost 
heap.  The  roof  was  the  soundest  part,  though 
a  good  deal  warped  and  made  brittle  by  the  sun. 
Door-sill  there  was  none,  but  a  perennial  pas 
sage  for  the  hens  under  the  door  board.  Mrs. 
C.  came  to  the  door  and  asked  me  to  view  it  from 
the  inside.  The  hens  were  driven  in  by  my 
approach.  It  was  dark,  and  had  a  dirt  floor  for 
the  most  part,  dank,  clammy,  and  aguish,  only 
here  a  board  and  there  a  board  which  would  not 
bear  removal.  She  lighted  a  lamp  to  show  me 
the  inside  of  the  roof  and  the  walls,  and  also  that 
the  board  floor  extended  under  the  bed,  warning 
me  not  to  step  into  the  cellar,  a  sort  of  dust  hole 
two  feet  deep.  In  her  own  words,  they  were 
"good  boards  overhead,  good  boards  all  around, 
and  a  good  window,"  -  of  two  whole  squares 
originally,  only  the  cat  had  passed  out  that  way 
lately.  There  was  a  stove,  a  bed,  and  a  place  to 
sit,  an  infant  in  the  house  where  it  was  born,  a 
silk  parasol,  gilt-framed  looking-glass,  and  a 
patent  new  coffee  mill  nailed  to  an  oak  sapling, 
all  told.  The  bargain  was  soon  concluded,  for 
James  had  in  the  meanwhile  returned.  I  to 
pay  four  dollars  and  twenty-five  cents  to-night, 
he  to  vacate  at  five  to-morrow  morning,  selling  to 
nobody  else  meanwhile:  I  to  take  possession  at 
six.  It  were  well,  he  said,  to  be  there  early,  and 


anticipate  certain  indistinct  but  wholly  unjust 
claims,  on  the  score  of  ground  rent  and  fuel. 
This  he  assured  me  was  the  only  encumbrance. 
At  six  I  passed  him  and  his  family  on  the  road. 
One  large  bundle  held  their  all, --bed,  coffee 
mill,  looking-glass,  hens,  —  all  but  the  cat,  she 
took  to  the  woods  and  became  a  wild  cat,  and, 
as  I  learned  afterward,  trod  in  a  trap  set  for 
woodchucks,  and  so  became  a  dead  cat  at  last. 

I  took  down  this  dwelling  the  same  morning, 
drawing  the  nails,  and  removed  it  to  the  pond 
side  by  small  cartloads,  spreading  the  boards  on 
the  grass  there  to  bleach  and  warp  back  again  in 
the  sun.  One  early  thrush  gave  me  a  note  or 
two  as  I  drove  along  the  woodland  path.  I  was 
informed  treacherously  by  a  young  Patrick  that 
neighbor  Seeley,  an  Irishman,  in  the  intervals  of 
the  carting,  transferred  the  still  tolerable,  straight, 
and  drivable  nails,  staples,  and  spikes  to  his 
pocket,  and  then  stood  when  I  came  back  to 
pass  the  time  of  day,  and  look  freshly  up,  un 
concerned  with  spring  thoughts,  at  the  devasta 
tion  ;  there  being  a  dearth  of  work,  as  he  said. 
He  was  there  to  represent  spectatordom,  and 
help  make  this  seemingly  insignificant  event  one 
with  the  removal  of  the  gods  of  Troy. 

I  dug  my  cellar  in  the  side  of  a  hill  sloping  to 
the  south,  where  a  woodchuck  had  formerly  dug 
his  burrow,  down  through  sumach  and  black 
berry  roots,  and  the  lowest  stain  of  vegetation, 


six  feet  square  by  seven  deep,  to  a  fine  sand 
where  potatoes  would  not  freeze  in  any  winter. 
The  sides  were  left  shelving,  and  not  stoned; 
but  the  sun  having  never  shone  on  them,  the 
sand  still  keeps  its  place.  It  was  but  two  hours' 
work.  I  took  particular  pleasure  in  this  break 
ing  of  ground,  for  in  almost  all  latitudes  men  dig 
into  the  earth  for  an  equable  temperature.  Un 
der  the  most  splendid  house  in  the  city  is  still  to 
be  found  the  cellar  where  they  store  their  roots 
as  of  old,  and  long  after  the  superstructure  has 
disappeared  posterity  remark  its  dent  in  the  earth. 
The  house  is  still  but  a  sort  of  porch  at  the 
entrance  of  a  burrow. 

At  length,  in  the  beginning  of  May,  with  the 
help  of  some  of  my  acquaintances,  rather  to  im 
prove  so  good  an  occasion  for  neighborliness 
than  from  any  necessity,  I  set  up  the  frame  of 
my  house.  No  man  was  ever  more  honored  in 
the  character  of  his  raisers  than  I.  They  are 
destined,  I  trust,  to  assist  at  the  raising  of  loftier 
structures  one  day.  I  began  to  occupy  my  house 
on  the  4th  of  July,  as  soon  as  it  was  boarded  and 
roofed,  for  the  boards  were  carefully  feather- 
edged  and  lapped,  so  that  it  was  perfectly  im 
pervious  to  rain ;  but  before  boarding  I  laid  the 
foundation  of  a  chimney  at  one  end,  bringing 
two  cartloads  of  stones  up  the  hill  from  the  pond 
in  my  arms.  I  built  the  chimney  after  my  hoeing 
in  the  fall,  before  a  fire  became  necessary  for 


warmth,  doing  my  cooking  in  the  meanwhile  out 
of  doors  on  the  ground,  early  in  the  morning: 
which  mode  I  still  think  is  in  some  respects  more 
convenient  and  agreeable  than  the  usual  one. 
When  it  stormed  before  my  bread  was  baked,  I 
fixed  a  few  boards  over  the  fire,  and  sat  under 
them  to  watch  my  loaf,  and  passed  some  pleasant 
hours  in  that  way.  In  those  days,  when  my  hands 
were  much  employed,  I  read  but  little,  but  the 
least  scraps  of  paper  which  lay  on  the  ground, 
my  holder,  or  tablecloth,  afforded  me  as  much 
entertainment,  in  fact  answered  the  same  pur 
pose,  as  the  Iliad. 

It  would  be  worth  the  while  to  build  still  more 
deliberately  than  I  did,  considering,  for  instance, 
what  foundation  a  door,  a  window,  a  cellar,  a 
garret,  have  in  the  nature  of  man,  and  perchance 
never  raising  any  superstructure  until  we  found 
a  better  reason  for  it  than  our  temporal  necessi 
ties  even.  There  is  some  of  the  same  fitness  in  a 
man's  building  his  own  house  that  there  is  in  a 
bird's  building  its  own  nest.  Who  knows  but  if 
men  constructed  their  dwellings  with  their  own 
hands,  and  provided  food  for  themselves  and 
families  simply  and  honestly  enough,  the  poetic 
faculty  would  be  universally  developed,  as  birds 
universally  sing  when  they  are  so  engaged  ? 
But  alas !  we  do  like  cowbirds  and  cuckoos, 
which  lay  their  eggs  in  nests  which  other  birds 


have  built,  and  cheer  no  traveller  with  their 
chattering  and  unmusical  notes.  Shall  we  for 
ever  resign  the  pleasure  of  construction  to  the 
carpenter?  What  does  architecture  amount  to 
in  the  experience  of  the  mass  of  men  ?  I  never 
in  all  my  walks  came  across  a  man  engaged  in  so 
simple  and  natural  an  occupation  as  building  his 
house.  We  belong  to  the  community.  It  is  not 
the  tailor  alone  who  is  the  ninth  part  of  a  man : 
it  is  as  much  the  preacher,  and  the  merchant, 
and  the  farmer.  Where  is  this  division  of  labor 
to  end  ?  and  what  object  does  it  finally  serve  ? 
No  doubt  another  may  also  think  for  me;  but 
it  is  not  therefore  desirable  that  he  should  do  so 
to  the  exclusion  of  my  thinking  for  myself. 

True,  there  are  architects  so  called  in  this 
country,  and  I  have  heard  of  one  at  least  pos 
sessed  with  the  idea  of  making  architectural  or 
naments  have  a  core  of  truth,  a  necessity,  and 
hence  a  beauty,  as  if  it  were  a  revelation  to  him. 
All  very  well  perhaps  from  his  point  of  view,  but 
only  a  little  better  than  the  common  dilettant 
ism.  A  sentimental  reformer  in  architecture, 
he  began  at  the  cornice,  not  at  the  foundation. 
It  was  only  how  to  put  a  core  of  truth  within  the 
ornaments,  that  every  sugar  plum  in  fact  might 
have  an  almond  or  caraway  seed  in  it,  -  -  though 
I  hold  that  almonds  are  most  wholesome  with 
out  the  sugar,  —  and  not  how  the  inhabitant, 
the  indweller,  might  build  truly  within  and  with- 


out,  and  let  the  ornaments  take  care  of  them 
selves.  What  reasonable  man  ever  supposed 
that  ornaments  were  something  outward  and 
in  the  skin  merely,  —  that  the  tortoise  got  his 
spotted  shell,  or  the  shellfish  its  mother-o'-pearl 
tints,  by  such  a  contract  as  the  inhabitants  of 
Broadway  their  Trinity  Church  ?  But  a  man 
has  no  more  to  do  with  the  style  of  architecture 
of  his  house  than  a  tortoise  with  that  of  its  shell : 
nor  need  the  soldier  be  so  idle  as  to  try  to  paint 
the  precise  color  of  his  virtue  on  his  standard. 
The  enemy  will  find  it  out.  He  may  turn  pale 
when  the  trial  comes.  This  man  seemed  to  me 
to  lean  over  the  cornice,  and  timidly  whisper  his 
half  truth  to  the  rude  occupants,  who  really 
knew  it  better  than  he.  What  of  architectural 
beauty  I  now  see,  I  know  has  gradually  grown 
from  within  outward,  out  of  the  necessities  and 
character  of  the  indweller,  who  is  the  only 
builder,  —  out  of  some  unconscious  truthful 
ness,  and  nobleness,  without  ever  a  thought  for 
the  appearance ;  and  whatever  additional  beauty 
of  this  kind  is  destined  to  be  produced  will  be 
preceded  by  a  like  unconscious  beauty  of  life. 
The  most  interesting  dwellings  in  this  country, 
as  the  painter  knows,  are  the  most  unpretend 
ing,  humble  log  huts  and  cottages  of  the  poor 
commonly ;  it  is  the  life  of  the  inhabitants  whose 
shells  they  are,  and  not  any  peculiarity  in  their 
surfaces  merely,  which  makes  them  picturesque; 


and  equally  interesting  will  be  the  citizen's 
suburban  box,  when  his  life  shall  be  as  simple 
and  as  agreeable  to  the  imagination,  and  there 
is  as  little  straining  after  effect  in  the  style  of  his 
dwelling.  A  great  proportion  of  architectural 
ornaments  are  literally  hollow,  and  a  Septem 
ber  gale  would  strip  them  off,  like  borrowed 
plumes,  without  injury  to  the  substantials. 
They  can  do  without  architecture  who  have  no 
olives  nor  wines  in  the  cellar.  What  if  an  equal 
ado  were  made  about  the  ornaments  of  style 
in  literature,  and  the  architects  of  our  Bibles 
spent  as  much  time  about  their  cornices  as  the 
architects  of  our  churches  do  ?  So  are  made 
the  belles-lettres  and  the  beaux-arts  and  their 
professors.  Much  it  concerns  a  man,  forsooth, 
how  a  few  sticks  are  slanted  over  him  or  under 
him,  and  what  colors  are  daubed  upon  his 
box.  It  would  signify  somewhat,  if,  in  any  ear 
nest  sense,  he  slanted  them  and  daubed  it;  but 
the  spirit  having  departed  out  of  the  tenant,  it  is 
of  a  piece  with  constructing  his  own  coffin,  - 
the  architecture  of  the  grave,  and  "carpenter" 
is  but  another  name  for  "coffin-maker."  One 
man  says,  in  his  despair  or  indifference  to  life, 
take  up  a  handful  of  the  earth  at  your  feet,  and 
paint  your  house  that  color.  Is  he  thinking  of 
his  last  and  narrow  house  ?  Toss  up  a  copper 
for  it  as  well.  What  an  abundance  of  leisure  he 
must  have !  Why  do  you  take  up  a  handful  of 


the  dirt?  Better  paint  your  house  your  own 
complexion;  let  it  turn  pale  or  blush  for  you. 
An  enterprise  to  improve  the  style  of  cottage 
architecture  !  When  you  have  got  my  orna 
ments  ready  I  will  wear  them. 

Before  winter  I  built  a  chimney,  and  shingled 
the  sides  of  my  house,  which  were  already  im 
pervious  to  rain,  with  imperfect  and  sappy 
shingles  made  of  the  first  slice  of  the  log,  whose 
edges  I  was  obliged  to  straighten  with  a  plane. 

I  have  thus  a  tight  shingled  and  plastered 
house,  ten  feet  wide  by  fifteen  long,  and  eight- 
feet  posts,  with  a  garret  and  a  closet,  a  large 
window  on  each  side,  two  trap  doors,  one  door 
at  the  end,  and  a  brick  fire-place  opposite.  The 
exact  cost  of  my  house,  paying  the  usual  price 
for  such  materials  as  I  used,  but  not  counting 
the  work,  all  of  which  was  done  by  myself,  was 
as  follows;  and  I  give  the  details  because  very 
few  are  able  to  tell  exactly  what  their  houses 
cost,  and  fewer  still,  if  any,  the  separate  cost  of 
the  various  materials  which  compose  them  :  — 

Boards     ............    $8  03J 

Refuse  shingles  for  roof  and  sides  .  4  00 

Laths    .............  125 

Two  second-hand  windows  with  glass  2  43 

One  thousand  old  brick    .....  4  00 

Two  casks  of  lime     .......  2  40      That  was  high. 

,,  f  More  than  I 
Hair     .............      OSl-j  ,    , 



Mantle- tree  iron $0  15 

Nails 3  90 

Hinges  and  screws 0  14 

Latch        0  10 

Chalk 001 

Transportation    .  1  40J  Icarrieda^od 

^  part  on  my  back. 

In  all $28  12i 

These  are  all  the  materials  excepting  the 
timber,  stones,  and  sand,  which  I  claimed  by 
squatter's  right.  I  have  also  a  small  wood-shed 
adjoining,  made  chiefly  of  the  stuff  which  was 
left  after  building  the  house. 

I  intend  to  build  me  a  house  which  will  sur 
pass  any  on  the  main  street  in  Concord  in  grand 
eur  and  luxury,  as  soon  as  it  pleases  me  as  much 
and  will  cost  me  no  more  than  my  present  one. 

I  thus  found  that  the  student  who  wishes  for 
a  shelter  can  obtain  one  for  a  lifetime  at  an  ex 
pense  not  greater  than  the  rent  which  he  now 
pays  annually.  If  I  seem  to  boast  more  than  is 
becoming,  my  excuse  is  that  I  brag  for  human 
ity  rather  than  for  myself;  and  my  short-com 
ings  and  inconsistencies  do  not  affect  the  truth 
of  my  statement.  Notwithstanding  much  cant 
and  hypocrisy,  —  chaff  which  I  find  it  difficult 
to  separate  from  my  wheat,  but  for  which  I  am 
as  sorry  as  any  man,  -  - 1  will  breathe  freely  and 
stretch  myself  in  this  respect,  it  is  such  a  relief 
to  both  the  moral  and  physical  system;  and  I 
am  resolved  that  I  will  not  through  humility 


become  the  devil's  attorney.  I  will  endeavor  to 
speak  a  good  word  for  the  truth.  At  Cambridge 
College  the  mere  rent  of  a  student's  room,  which 
is  only  a  little  larger  than  my  own,  is  thirty  dol 
lars  each  year,  though  the  corporation  had  the 
advantage  of  building  thirty-two  side  by  side 
and  under  one  roof,  and  the  occupant  suffers 
the  inconvenience  of  many  and  noisy  neighbors, 
and  perhaps  a  residence  in  the  fourth  story.  I 
cannot  but  think  that  if  we  had  more  true  wis 
dom  in  these  respects,  not  only  less  education 
would  be  needed,  because,  forsooth,  more  would 
already  have  been  acquired,  but  the  pecuniary 
expense  of  getting  an  education  would  in  a 
great  measure  vanish.  Those  conveniences 
which  the  student  requires  at  Cambridge  or 
elsewhere  cost  him  or  somebody  else  ten  times 
as  great  a  sacrifice  of  life  as  they  would  with 
proper  management  on  both  sides.  Those 
things  for  which  the  most  money  is  demanded 
are  never  the  things  which  the  student  most 
wants.  Tuition,  for  instance,  is  an  important 
item  in  the  term  bill,  while  for  the  far  more 
valuable  education  which  he  gets  by  associating 
with  the  most  cultivated  of  his  contemporaries 
no  charge  is  made.  The  mode  of  founding  a 
college  is,  commonly,  to  get  up  a  subscription 
of  dollars  and  cents,  and  then  following  blindly 
the  principles  of  a  division  of  labor  to  its  ex 
treme,  a  principle  which  should  never  be  fol- 

One  of  the  pitch  pines  by  the  shore  of  Walden 


lowed  but  with  circumspection, -- to  call  in  a 
contractor  who  makes  this  a  subject  of  specula 
tion,  and  he  employs  Irishmen  or  other  opera 
tives  actually  to  lay  the  foundations,  while  the 
students  that  are  to  be  are  said  to  be  fitting 
themselves  for  it;  and  for  these  oversights  suc 
cessive  generations  have  to  pay.  I  think  that 
it  would  be  better  than  this,  for  the  students,  or 
those  who  desire  to  be  benefited  by  it,  even  to 
lay  the  foundation  themselves.  The  student  who 
secures  his  coveted  leisure  and  retirement  by 
systematically  shirking  any  labor  necessary  to 
man  obtains  but  an  ignoble  and  unprofitable 
leisure,  defrauding  himself  of  the  experience 
which  alone  can  make  leisure  fruitful.  "But," 
says  one,  "you  do  not  mean  that  the  students 
should  go  to  work  with  their  hands  instead  of 
their  heads?"  I  do  not  mean  that  exactly,  but 
I  mean  something  which  he  might  think  a  good 
deal  like  that ;  I  mean  that  they  should  not  play 
life,  or  study  it  merely,  while  the  community 
supports  them  at  this  expensive  game,  but  ear 
nestly  live  it  from  beginning  to  end.  How  could 
youths  better  learn  to  live  than  by  at  once  trying 
the  experiment  of  living?  Methinks  this  would 
exercise  their  minds  as  much  as  mathematics. 
If  I  wished  a  boy  to  know  something  about  the 
arts  and  sciences,  for  instance,  I  would  not  pur 
sue  the  common  course,  which  is  merely  to  send 
him  into  the  neighborhood  of  some  professor, 


where  anything  is  professed  and  practised  but 
the  art  of  life ;  —  to  survey  the  world  through  a 
telescope  or  a  microscope,  and  never  with  his 
natural  eye;  to  study  chemistry,  and  not  learn 
how  his  bread  is  made,  or  mechanics,  and  not 
learn  how  it  is  earned ;  to  discover  new  satellites 
to  Neptune,  and  not  detect  the  motes  in  his  eyes, 
or  to  what  vagabond  he  is  a  satellite  himself ;  or 
to  be  devoured  by  the  monsters  that  swarm  all 
around  him,  while  contemplating  the  monsters 
in  a  drop  of  vinegar.  Which  would  have  ad 
vanced  the  most  at  the  end  of  a  month, --the 
boy  who  had  made  his  own  jackknife  from  the 
ore  which  he  had  dug  and  smelted,  reading  as 
much  as  would  be  necessary  for  this,  —  or  the 
boy  who  had  attended  the  lectures  on  metal 
lurgy  at  the  Institute  in  the  meanwhile,  and  had 
received  a  Rogers'  penknife  from  his  father? 
Which  would  be  most  likely  to  cut  his  fingers  ? 
.  .  .  To  my  astonishment  I  was  informed  on 
leaving  college  that  I  had  studied  navigation !  - 
why,  if  I  had  taken  one  turn  down  the  harbor 
I  should  have  known  more  about  it.  Even  the 
poor  student  studies  and  is  taught  only  political 
economy,  while  that  economy  of  living  which  is 
synonymous  with  philosophy  is  not  even  sin 
cerely  professed  in  our  colleges.  The  conse 
quence  is  that  while  he  is  reading  Adam  Smith, 
Ricardo,  and  Say,  he  runs  his  father  in  debt 


As  with  our  colleges,  so  with  a  hundred 
"modern  improvements":  there  is  an  illusion 
about  them;  there  is  not  always  a  positive  ad 
vance.  The  devil  goes  on  exacting  compound 
interest  to  the  last  for  his  early  share  and  nu 
merous  succeeding  investments  in  them.  Our 
inventions  are  wont  to  be  pretty  toys,  which  dis 
tract  our  attention  from  serious  things.  They 
are  but  improved  means  to  an  unimproved  end, 
an  end  which  it  was  already  but  too  easy  to 
arrive  at;  as  railroads  lead  to  Boston  or  New 
York.  We  are  in  great  haste  to  construct  a 
magnetic  telegraph  from  Maine  to  Texas;  but 
Maine  and  Texas,  it  may  be,  have  nothing  im 
portant  to  communicate.  Either  is  in  such  a 
predicament  as  the  man  who  was  earnest  to  be 
introduced  to  a  distinguished  deaf  woman,  but 
when  he  was  presented,  and  one  end  of  her  ear 
trumpet  was  put  into  his  hand,  had  nothing  to 
say.  As  if  the  main  object  were  to  talk  fast  and 
not  to  talk  sensibly.  We  are  eager  to  tunnel 
under  the  Atlantic  and  bring  the  old  world  some 
weeks  nearer  to  the  new;  but  perchance  the 
first  news  that  will  leak  through  into  the  broad, 
flapping  American  ear  will  be  that  the  Princess 
Adelaide  has  the  whooping  cough.  After  all, 
the  man  whose  horse  trots  a  mile  in  a  minute 
does  not  carry  the  most  important  messages ;  he 
is  not  an  evangelist,  nor  does  he  come  round 
eating  locusts  and  wild  honey.  I  doubt  if 


Flying  Childers  ever  carried  a  peck  of  corn  to 

One  says  to  me,  "I  wonder  that  you  do  not 
lay  up  money;  you  love  to  travel;  you  might 
take  the  cars  and  go  to  Fitchburg  to-day  and 
see  the  country."  But  I  am  wiser  than  that.  I 
have  learned  that  the  swiftest  traveller  is  he  that 
goes  afoot.  I  say  to  my  friend,  Suppose  we  try 
who  will  get  there  first.  The  distance  is  thirty 
miles;  the  fare  ninety  cents.  That  is  almost  a 
day's  wages.  I  remember  when  wages  were 
sixty  cents  a  day  for  laborers  on  this  very  road. 
Well,  I  start  now  on  foot,  and  get  there  before 
night;  I  have  travelled  at  that  rate  by  the  week 
together.  You  will  in  the  meanwhile  have 
earned  your  fare,  and  arrive  there  sometime  to 
morrow,  or  possibly  this  evening,  if  you  are 
lucky  enough  to  get  a  job  in  season.  Instead  of 
going  to  Fitchburg,  you  will  be  working  here 
the  greater  part  of  the  day.  And  so,  if  the  rail 
road  reached  round  the  world,  I  think  that  I 
should  keep  ahead  of  you ;  and  as  for  seeing  the 
country  and  getting  experience  of  that  kind,  I 
should  have  to  cut  your  acquaintance  altogether. 

Such  is  the  universal  law,  which  no  man  can 
ever  outwit,  and  with  regard  to  the  railroad 
even  we  may  say  it  is  as  broad  as  it  is  long.  To 
make  a  railroad  round  the  world  available  to 
all  mankind  is  equivalent  to  grading  the  whole 
surface  of  the  planet.  Men  have  an  indistinct 


notion  that  if  they  keep  up  this  activity  of  joint 
stocks  and  spades  long  enough  all  will  at  length 
ride  somewhere,  in  next  to  no  time,  and  for 
nothing;  but  though  a  crowd  rushes  to  the 
depot,  and  the  conductor  shouts  "All  aboard!" 
when  the  smoke  is  blown  away  and  the  vapor 
condensed,  it  will  be  perceived  that  a  few  are 
riding,  but  the  rest  are  run  over,  —  and  it  will  be 
called,  and  will  be,  "A  melancholy  accident." 
No  doubt  they  can  ride  at  last  who  shall  have 
earned  their  fare,  that  is,  if  they  survive  so  long, 
but  they  will  probably  have  lost  their  elasticity 
and  desire  to  travel  by  that  time.  This  spend 
ing  of  the  best  part  of  one's  life  earning  money 
in  order  to  enjoy  a  questionable  liberty  during 
the  least  valuable  part  of  it,  reminds  me  of  the 
Englishman  who  went  to  India  to  make  a  for 
tune  first,  in  order  that  he  might  return  to  Eng 
land  and  live  the  life  of  a  poet.  He  should  have 
gone  up  garret  at  once.  "What!"  exclaim  a 
million  Irishmen  starting  up  from  all  the  shan 
ties  in  the  land,  "is  not  this  railroad  which  we 
have  built  a  good  thing?"  Yes,  I  answer, 
comparatively  good,  that  is,  you  might  have 
done  worse;  but  I  wish,  as  you  are  brothers  of 
mine,  that  you  could  have  spent  your  time  bet 
ter  than  digging  in  this  dirt. 

Before  I  finished  my  house,  wishing  to  earn 
ten  or  twelve  dollars  by  some  honest  and  agree- 


able  method,  in  order  to  meet  my  unusual  ex 
penses,  I  planted  about  two  acres  and  a  half  of 
light  and  sandy  soil  near  it  chiefly  with  beans, 
but  also  a  small  part  with  potatoes,  corn,  peas, 
and  turnips.  The  whole  lot  contains  eleven 
acres,  mostly  growing  up  to  pines  and  hickories, 
and  was  sold  the  preceding  season  for  eight  dol 
lars  and  eight  cents  an  acre.  One  farmer  said 
that  it  was  "good  for  nothing  but  to  raise  cheep 
ing  squirrels  on."  I  put  no  manure  whatever 
on  this  land,  not  being  the  owner,  but  merely  a 
squatter,  and  not  expecting  to  cultivate  so 
much  again,  and  I  did  not  quite  hoe  it  all  once. 
I  got  out  several  cords  of  stumps  in  ploughing, 
which  supplied  me  with  fuel  for  a  long  time, 
and  left  small  circles  of  virgin  mould,  easily  dis 
tinguishable  through  the  summer  by  the  greater 
luxuriance  of  the  beans  there.  The  dead  and 
for  the  most  part  unmerchantable  wood  be 
hind  my  house,  and  the  driftwood  from  the 
pond,  have  supplied  the  remainder  of  my  fuel. 
I  was  obliged  to  hire  a  team  and  a  man  for  the 
ploughing,  though  I  held  the  plough  myself. 
My  farm  outgoes  for  the  first  season  were,  for 
implements,  seed,  work,  &c.,  $14  72J.  The 
seed  corn  was  given  me.  This  never  costs  any 
thing  to  speak  of,  unless  you  plant  more  than 
enough.  I  got  twelve  bushels  of  beans,  and 
eighteen  bushels  of  potatoes,  besides  some  peas 
and  sweet  corn.  The  yellow  corn  and  turnips 


were  too  late  to  come  to  anything.  My  whole 
income  from  the  farm  was 


Deducting  the  outgoes 14  72  J 

There  are  left $8  71j 

besides  produce  consumed  and  on  hand  at  the 
time  this  estimate  was  made  of  the  value  of 
$4  50,  --  the  amount  on  hand  much  more  than 
balancing  a  little  grass  which  I  did  not  raise. 
All  things  considered,  that  is,  considering  the 
importance  of  a  man's  soul  and  of  to-day,  not 
withstanding  the  short  time  occupied  by  my 
experiment,  nay,  partly  even  because  of  its  tran 
sient  character,  I  believe  that  that  was  doing 
better  than  any  farmer  in  Concord  did  that 

The  next  year  I  did  better  still,  for  I  spaded 
up  all  the  land  which  I  required,  about  a  third 
of  an  acre,  and  I  learned  from  the  experience 
of  both  years,  not  being  in  the  least  awed  by 
many  celebrated  works  on  husbandry,  Arthur 
Young  among  the  rest,  that  if  one  would  live 
simply  and  eat  only  the  crop  which  he  raised, 
and  raise  no  more  than  he  ate,  and  not  exchange 
it  for  an  insufficient  quantity  of  more  luxurious 
and  expensive  things,  he  would  need  to  culti 
vate  only  a  few  rods  of  ground,  and  that  it  would 
be  cheaper  to  spade  up  that  than  to  use  oxen 
to  plough  it,  and  to  select  a  fresh  spot  from  time 
to  time  than  to  manure  the  old,  and  he  could 


do  all  his  necessary  farm  work  as  it  were  with 
his  left  hand  at  odd  hours  in  the  summer;  and 
thus  he  would  not  be  tied  to  an  ox,  or  horse,  or 
cow,  or  pig,  as  at  present.  I  desire  to  speak 
impartially  on  this  point,  and  as  one  not  inter 
ested  in  the  success  or  failure  of  the  present 
economical  and  social  arrangements.  I  was 
more  independent  than  any  farmer  in  Concord, 
for  I  was  not  anchored  to  a  house  or  farm,  but 
could  follow  the  bent  of  my  genius,  which  is  a 
very  crooked  one,  every  moment.  Besides  being 
better  off  than  they  already,  if  my  house  had 
been  burned  or  my  crops  had  failed,  I  should 
have  been  nearly  as  well  off  as  before. 

I  am  wont  to  think  that  men  are  not  so  much 
the  keepers  of  herds  as  herds  are  the  keepers  of 
men,  the  former  are  so  much  the  freer.  Men 
and  oxen  exchange  work;  but  if  we  consider 
necessary  work  only,  the  oxen  will  be  seen  to 
have  greatly  the  advantage,  their  farm  is  so 
much  the  larger.  Man  does  some  of  his  part 
of  the  exchange  work  in  his  six  weeks  of  haying, 
and  it  is  no  boy's  play.  Certainly  no  nation 
that  lived  simply  in  all  respects,  that  is,  no 
nation  of  philosophers,  would  commit  so  great 
a  blunder  as  to  use  the  labor  of  animals.  True, 
there  never  was  and  is  not  likely  soon  to  be  a 
nation  of  philosophers,  nor  am  I  certain  it  is 
desirable  that  there  should  be.  However,  J 
should  never  have  broken  a  horse  or  bull  and 


taken  him  to  board  for  any  work  he  might  do 
for  me,  for  fear  I  should  become  a  horseman  or 
a  herdsman  merely;  and  if  society  seems  to  be 
the  gainer  by  so  doing,  are  we  certain  that  what 
is  one  man's  gain  is  not  another's  loss,  and  that 
the  stable-boy  has  equal  cause  with  his  master 
to  be  satisfied  ?  Granted  that  some  public  works 
would  not  have  been  constructed  without  this 
aid,  and  let  man  share  the  glory  of  such  with 
the  ox  and  horse;  does  it  follow  that  he  could 
not  have  accomplished  works  yet  more  worthy 
of  himself  in  that  case  ?  When  men  begin  to 
do,  not  merely  unnecessary  or  artistic,  but 
luxurious  and  idle  work,  with  their  assistance, 
it  is  inevitable  that  a  few  do  all  the  exchange 
work  with  the  oxen,  or,  in  other  words,  become 
the  slaves  of  the  strongest.  Man  thus  not  only 
works  for  the  animal  within  him,  but,  for  a 
symbol  of  this,  he  works  for  the  animal  without 
him.  Though  we  have  many  substantial  houses 
of  brick  or  stone,  the  prosperity  of  the  farmer 
is  still  measured  by  the  degree  to  which  the  barn 
overshadows  the  house.  This  town  is  said  to 
have  the  largest  houses  for  oxen,  cows,  and 
horses  hereabouts,  and  it  is  not  behindhand  in 
its  public  buildings ;  but  there  are  very  few  halls 
for  free  worship  or  free  speech  in  this  county. 
It  should  not  be  by  their  architecture,  but  why 
not  even  by  their  power  of  abstract  thought, 
that  nations  should  seek  to  commemorate  them- 


selves  ?  How  much  more  admirable  the  Bhagvat- 
Geeta  than  all  the  ruins  of  the  East !  Towers 
and  temples  are  the  luxury  of  princes.  A  simple 
and  independent  mind  does  not  toil  at  the  bid 
ding  of  any  prince.  Genius  is  not  a  retainer  to 
any  emperor,  nor  is  its  material  silver,  or  gold, 
or  marble,  except  to  a  trifling  extent.  To  what 
end,  pray,  is  so  much  stone  hammered  ?  In 
Arcadia,  when  I  was  there,  I  did  not  see  any 
hammering  stone.  Nations  are  possessed  with 
an  insane  ambition  to  perpetuate  the  memory 
of  themselves  by  the  amount  of  hammered 
stone  they  leave.  What  if  equal  pains  were 
taken  to  smooth  and  polish  their  manners  ? 
One  piece  of  good  sense  would  be  more  memo 
rable  than  a  monument  as  high  as  the  moon. 
I  love  better  to  see  stones  in  place.  The  grandeur 
of  Thebes  was  a  vulgar  grandeur.  More  sensible 
is  a  rod  of  stone  wall  that  bounds  an  honest 
man's  field  than  a  hundred-gated  Thebes  that 
has  wandered  farther  from  the  true  end  of  life. 
The  religion  and  civilization  which  are  bar 
baric  and  heathenish  build  splendid  temples; 
but  what  you  might  call  Christianity  does  not. 
Most  of  the  stone  a  nation  hammers  goes  toward 
its  tomb  only.  It  buries  itself  alive.  As  for  the 
Pyramids,  there  is  nothing  to  wonder  at  in  them 
so  much  as  the  fact  that  so  many  men  could  be 
found  degraded  enough  to  spend  their  lives 
constructing  a  tomb  for  some  ambitious  booby, 

-'.'•'  "v 




whom  it  would  have  been  wiser  and  manlier 
to  have  drowned  in  the  Nile,  and  then  given 
his  body  to  the  dogs.  I  might  possibly  invent 
some  excuse  for  them  and  him,  but  I  have  no 
time  for  it.  As  for  the  religion  and  love  of  art 
of  the  builders,  it  is  much  the  same  all  the  world 
over,  whether  the  building  be  an  Egyptian 
temple  or  the  United  States  Bank.  It  costs 
more  than  it  comes  to.  The  mainspring  is 
vanity,  assisted  by  the  love  of  garlic  and  bread 
and  butter.  Mr.  Balcom,  a  promising  young 
architect,  designs  it  on  the  back  of  his  Vitruvius, 
with  hard  pencil  and  ruler,  and  the  job  is  let  out 
to  Dobson  &  Sons,  stonecutters.  When  the 
thirty  centuries  begin  to  look  down  on  it,  man 
kind  begin  to  look  up  at  it.  As  for  your  high 
towers  and  monuments,  there  was  a  crazy  fellow 
once  in  this  town  who  undertook  to  dig  through 
to  China,  and  he  got  so  far  that,  as  he  said,  he 
heard  the  Chinese  pots  and  kettles  rattle;  but 
I  think  that  I  shall  not  go  out  of  my  way  to  ad 
mire  the  hole  which  he  made.  Many  are  con 
cerned  about  the  monuments  of  the  West  and 
East,  --to  know  who  built  them.  For  my  part, 
I  should  like  to  know  who  in  those  days  did  not 
build  them, --who  were  above  such  trifling. 
But  to  proceed  with  my  statistics. 

By  surveying,  carpentry,  and  day-labor  of 
various  other  kinds  in  the  village  in  the  mean 
while,  for  I  have  as  many  trades  as  fingers,  I 



had  earned  $13  34.  The  expense  of  food  for 
eight  months,  namely,  from  July  4th  to  March 
1st,  the  time  when  these  estimates  were  made, 
though  I  lived  there  more  than  two  years,  —  not 
counting  potatoes,  a  little  green  corn,  and  some 
peas,  which  I  had  raised,  nor  considering  the 
value  of  what  was  on  hand  at  the  last  date,  was 

Rice      $173j 

Molasses  .  .  .  . 
Rye  meal  .  .  . 
Indian  meal  .  . 




Apples  .  .  ,  , 
Dried  apple  .  , 
Sweet  potatoes  , 
One  pumpkin 
One  watermelon 
Salt  . 





Cheapest  form  of  the  saccharine. 
Cheaper  than  rye. 

JCosts  more  than  Indian  meal, 
\     both  money  and  trouble. 




Yes,  I  did  eat  $8  74,  all  told ;  but  I  should  not 
thus  unblushingly  publish  my  guilt,  if  I  did  not 
know  that  most  of  my  readers  were  equally 
guilty  with  myself,  and  that  their  deeds  would 
look  no  better  in  print.  The  next  year  I  some 
times  caught  a  mess  of  fish  for  my  dinner,  and 
once  I  went  so  far  as  to  slaughter  a  woodchuck 
which  ravaged  my  beanfield,  —  effect  his  trans 
migration,  as  a  Tartar  would  say,  —  and  devour 


him,  partly  for  experiment's  sake;  but  though 
it  afforded  me  a  momentary  enjoyment,  not 
withstanding  a  musky  flavor,  I  saw  that  the 
longest  use  would  not  make  that  a  good  practice, 
however  it  might  seem  to  have  your  woodchucks 
ready  dressed  by  the  village  butcher. 

Clothing  and  some  incidental  expenses  within 
the  same  dates,  though  little  can  be  inferred  from 
this  item,  amounted  to 

Oil  and  some  household  utensils 2  00 

So  that  all  the  pecuniary  outgoes,  excepting  for 
washing  and  mending,  which  for  the  most  part 
were  done  out  of  the  house,  and  their  bills  have 
not  yet  been  received,  —  and  these  are  all  and 
more  than  all  the  ways  by  which  money  neces 
sarily  goes  out  in  this  part  of  the  world,  —  were 

House $28  12J 

Farm  one  year      14  72^ 

Food  eight  months 8  74 

Clothing,   &c.,  eight  months      8  40f 

Oil,   &c.,  eight  months 2  00 

In  all      $6199f 

I  address  myself  now  to  those  of  my  readers  who 
have  a  living  to  get.  And  to  meet  this  I  have 
for  farm  produce  sold 


Earned  by  day-labor 13  34 

In  all  $3678 


which  subtracted  from  the  sum  of  the  outgoes 
leaves  a  balance  of  $25  21f  on  the  one  side,  - 
this  being  very  nearly  the  means  with  which  I 
started,  and  the  measure  of  expenses  to  be 
incurred,  —  and  on  the  other,  besides  the  leisure 
and  independence  and  health  thus  secured,  a 
comfortable  house  for  me  as  long  as  I  choose 
to  occupy  it. 

These  statistics,  however  accidental  and  there 
fore  uninstructive  they  may  appear,  as  they 
have  a  certain  completeness,  have  a  certain 
value  also.  Nothing  was  given  me  of  which  I 
have  not  rendered  some  account.  It  appears 
from  the  above  estimate,  that  my  food  alone 
cost  me  in  money  about  twenty-seven  cents  a 
week.  It  was,  for  nearly  two  years  after  this, 
rye  and  Indian  meal  without  yeast,  potatoes, 
rice,  a  very  little  salt  pork,  molasses,  and  salt, 
and  my  drink  water.  It  was  fit  that  I  should 
live  on  rice,  mainly,  who  loved  so  well  the  phil 
osophy  of  India.  To  meet  the  objections  of 
some  inveterate  cavillers,  I  may  as  well  state 
that  if  I  dined  out  occasionally,  as  I  always 
had  done,  and  I  trust  shall  have  opportunities 
to  do  again,  it  was  frequently  to  the  detriment 
of  my  domestic  arrangements.  But  the  dining 
out,  being,  as  I  have  stated,  a  constant  element, 
does  not  in  the  least  affect  a  comparative  state 
ment  like  this. 

I  learned  from  my  two  years'  experience  that 


it  would  cost  incredibly  little  trouble  to  obtain 
one's  necessary  food,  even  in  this  latitude ;  that 
a  man  may  use  as  simple  a  diet  as  the  animals, 
and  yet  retain  health  and  strength.  I  have  made 
a  satisfactory  dinner,  satisfactory  on  several 
accounts,  simply  off  a  dish  of  purslane  (Portu- 
laca  oleracea)  which  I  gathered  in  my  cornfield, 
boiled  and  salted.  I  give  the  Latin  on  account 
of  the  savoriness  of  the  trivial  name.  And  pray 
what  more  can  a  reasonable  man  desire,  in 
peaceful  times,  in  ordinary  noons,  than  a  suffi 
cient  number  of  ears  of  green  sweet-corn  boiled, 
with  the  addition  of  salt  ?  Even  the  little  variety 
which  I  used  was  a  yielding  to  the  demands  of 
appetite,  and  not  of  health.  Yet  men  have 
come  to  such  a  pass  that  they  frequently  starve, 
not  for  want  of  necessaries,  but  for  want  of 
luxuries ;  and  I  know  a  good  woman  who  thinks 
that  her  son  lost  his  life  because  he  took  to 
drinking  water  only. 

The  reader  will  perceive  that  I  am  treating 
the  subject  rather  from  an  economic  than  a 
dietetic  point  of  view,  and  he  will  not  venture 
to  put  my  abstemiousness  to  the  test  unless  he 
has  a  well-stocked  larder. 

Bread  I  at  first  made  of  pure  Indian  meal 
and  salt,  genuine  hoe-cakes,  which  I  baked 
before  my  fire  out  of  doors  on  a  shingle  or  the 
end  of  a  stick  of  timber  sawed  off  in  building  my 
house;  but  it  was  wont  to  get  smoked  and  to 


have  a  piny  flavor.  I  tried  flour  also ;  but  have 
at  last  found  a  mixture  of  rye  and  Indian  meal 
most  convenient  and  agreeable.  In  cold  weather 
it  was  no  little  amusement  to  bake  several  small 
loaves  of  this  in  succession,  tending  and  turning 
them  as  carefully  as  an  Egyptian  his  hatching 
eggs.  They  were  a  real  cereal  fruit  which  I 
ripened,  and  they  had  to  my  senses  a  fragrance 
like  that  of  other  noble  fruits,  which  I  kept  in 
as  long  as  possible  by  wrapping  them  in  cloths. 
I  made  a  study  of  the  ancient  and  indispen 
sable  art  of  bread-making,  consulting  such  au 
thorities  as  offered,  going  back  to  the  primitive 
days  and  first  invention  of  the  unleavened  kind, 
when  from  the  wildness  of  nuts  and  meats  men 
first  reached  the  mildness  and  refinement  of 
this  diet,  and  travelling  gradually  down  in  my 
studies  through  that  accidental  souring  of  the 
dough  which,  it  is  supposed,  taught  the  leavening 
process,  and  through  the  various  fermentations 
thereafter,  till  I  came  to  "good,  sweet,  whole 
some  bread,"  the  staff  of  life.  Leaven,  which 
some  deem  the  soul  of  bread,  the  spiritus  which 
fills  its  cellular  tissue,  which  is  religiously  pre 
served  like  the  vestal  fire,  —  some  precious 
bottle-full,  I  suppose,  first  brought  over  in  the 
Mayflower,  did  the  business  for  America,  and 
its  influence  is  still  rising,  swelling,  spreading, 
in  cerealian  billows  over  the  land,  —  this  seed 
I  regularly  and  faithfully  procured  from  the 


village,  till  at  length  one  morning  I  forgot  the 
rules,  and  scalded  my  yeast;  by  which  accident 
I  discovered  that  even  this  was  not  indispensable, 

-  for  my  discoveries  were  not  by  the  synthetic 
but  analytic  process,  —  and  I  have  gladly 
omitted  it  since,  though  most  housewives  ear 
nestly  assured  me  that  safe  and  wiiolesome  bread 
without  yeast  might  not  be,  and  elderly  people 
prophesied  a  speedy  decay  of  the  vital  forces. 
Yet  I  find  it  not  to  be  an  essential  ingredient, 
and  after  going  without  it  for  a  year  am  still 
in  the  land  of  the  living;  and  I  am  glad  to 
escape  the  trivialness  of  carrying  a  bottle-full 
in  my  pocket,  which  would  sometimes  pop  and 
discharge  its  contents  to  my  discomfiture.  It 
is  simpler  and  more  respectable  to  omit  it.  Man 
is  an  animal  who  more  than  any  other  can  adapt 
himself  to  all  climates  and  circumstances. 
Neither  did  I  put  any  sal  soda,  or  other  acid 
or  alkali,  into  my  bread.  It  would  seem  that 
I  made  it  according  to  the  recipe  which  Marcus 
Porcius  Cato  gave  about  two  centuries  before 
Christ.  "Panem  depsticium  sic  facito.  Manus 
mortariumque  bene  lavato.  Farinam  in  mor- 
tarium  indito,  aquae  paulatim  addito,  subigito- 
que  pulchre.  Ubi  bene  subegeris,  defingito, 
coquitoque  sub  testu."  Which  I  take  to  mean 

-"Make  kneaded  bread  thus.  Wash  your 
hands  and  trough  well.  Put  the  meal  into  the 
trough,  add  water  gradually,  and  knead  it 


thoroughly.  When  you  have  kneaded  it  well, 
mould  it,  and  bake  it  under  a  cover,"  that  is, 
in  a  baking-kettle.  Not  a  word  about  leaven. 
But  I  did  not  always  use  this  staff  of  life.  At 
one  time,  owing  to  the  emptiness  of  my  purse, 
I  saw  none  of  it  for  more  than  a  month. 

Every  New  Englander  might  easily  raise  all 
his  own  breadstuffs  in  this  land  of  rye  and  Indian 
corn,  and  not  depend  on  distant  and  fluctuating 
markets  for  them.  Yet  so  far  are  we  from 
simplicity  and  independence  that,  in  Concord, 
fresh  and  sweet  meal  is  rarely  sold  in  the  shops, 
and  hominy  and  corn  in  a  still  coarser  form 
are  hardly  used  by  any.  For  the  most  part  the 
farmer  gives  to  his  cattle  and  hogs  the  grain  of 
his  own  producing,  and  buys  flour,  which  is  at 
least  no  more  wholesome,  at  a  greater  cost,  at 
the  store.  I  saw  that  I  could  easily  raise  my 
bushel  or  two  of  rye  and  Indian  corn,  for  the 
former  will  grow  on  the  poorest  land,  and  the 
latter  does  not  require  the  best,  and  grind  them 
in  a  hand-mill,  and  so  do  without  rice  and 
pork;  and  if  I  must  have  some  concentrated 
sweet,  I  found  by  experiment  that  I  could  make 
a  very  good  molasses  either  of  pumpkins  or 
beets,  and  I  knew  that  I  needed  only  to  set  out 
a  few  maples  to  obtain  it  more  easily  still,  and 
while  these  were  growing  I  could  use  various 
substitutes  besides  those  which  I  have  named. 
"For,"  as  the  Forefathers  sang,  — 


"we  can  make  liquor  to  sweeten  our  lips 
Of  pumpkins  and  parsnips  and  walnut-tree  chips." 

Finally,  as  for  salt,  that  grossest  of  groceries,  to 
obtain  this  might  be  a  fit  occasion  for  a  visit  to 
the  seashore,  or,  if  I  did  without  it  altogether, 
I  should  probably  drink  the  less  water.  I  do 
not  learn  that  the  Indians  ever  troubled  them 
selves  to  go  after  it. 

Thus  I  could  avoid  all  trade  and  barter,  so  far 
as  my  food  was  concerned,  and  having  a  shelter 
already,  it  would  only  remain  to  get  clothing 
and  fuel.  The  pantaloons  which  I  now  wear 
were  woven  in  a  farmer's  family,  -  -  thank 
Heaven  there  is  so  much  virtue  still  in  man; 
for  I  think  the  fall  from  the  farmer  to  the  opera 
tive  as  great  and  memorable  as  that  from  the 
man  to  the  farmer ;  —  and  in  a  new  country 
fuel  is  an  encumbrance.  As  for  a  habitat,  if  I 
were  not  permitted  still  to  squat,  I  might  pur 
chase  one  acre  at  the  same  price  for  which  the 
land  I  cultivated  was  sold -- namely,  eight 
dollars  and  eight  cents.  But  as  it  was,  I  con 
sidered  that  I  enhanced  the  value  of  the  land  by 
squatting  on  it. 

There  is  a  certain  class  of  unbelievers  who 
sometimes  ask  me  such  questions  as,  if  I  think 
that  I  can  live  on  vegetable  food  alone;  and  to 
strike  at  the  root  of  the  matter  at  once, --for 
the  root  is  faith,  -  - 1  am  accustomed  to  answer 
such,  that  I  can  live  on  board  nails.  If  they 


cannot  understand  that,  they  cannot  under 
stand  much  that  I  have  to  say.  For  my  part, 
I  am  glad  to  hear  of  experiments  of  this  kind 
being  tried;  as  that  a  young  man  tried  for  a 
fortnight  to  live  on  hard,  raw  corn  on  the  ear, 
using  his  teeth  for  all  mortar.  The  squirrel 
tribe  tried  the  same  and  succeeded.  The  human 
race  is  interested  in  these  experiments,  though 
a  few  old  women  who  are  incapacitated  for 
them,  or  who  own  their  thirds  in  mills,  may  be 

My  furniture,  part  of  which  I  made  myself, 
and  the  rest  cost  me  nothing  of  which  I  have 
not  rendered  an  account,  consisted  of  a  bed,  a 
table,  a  desk,  three  chairs,  a  looking-glass  three 
inches  in  diameter,  a  pair  of  tongs  and  andirons, 
a  kettle,  a  skillet,  and  a  frying-pan,  a  dipper,  a 
wash-bowl,  two  knives  and  forks,  three  plates, 
one  cup,  one  spoon,  a  jug  for  oil,  a  jug  for  mo 
lasses,  and  a  japanned  lamp.  None  is  so  poor 
that  he  need  sit  on  a  pumpkin.  That  is  shift- 
lessness.  There  is  a  plenty  of  such  chairs  as  I 
like  best  in  the  village  garrets  to  be  had  for  tak 
ing  them  away.  Furniture  !  Thank  God,  I  can 
sit  and  I  can  stand  without  the  aid  of  a  furniture 
warehouse.  What  man  but  a  philosopher  would 
not  be  ashamed  to  see  his  furniture  packed  in  a 
cart  and  going  up  country  ^exposed  to  the  light 
of  heaven  and  the  eyes  of  men,  a  beggarly  ac- 


count  of  empty  boxes?  That  is  Spaulding's 
furniture.  I  could  never  tell  from  inspecting 
such  a  load  whether  it  belonged  to  a  so-called 
rich  man  or  a  poor  one;  the  owner  always 
seemed  poverty-stricken.  Indeed,  the  more 
you  have  of  such  things  the  poorer  you  are. 
Each  load  looks  as  if  it  contained  the  contents 
of  a  dozen  shanties;  and  if  one  shanty  is  poor, 
this  is  a  dozen  times  as  poor.  Pray,  for  what 
do  we  move  ever  but  to  get  rid  of  our  furniture, 
our  exuviae;  at  last  to  go  from  this  world  to 
another  newly  furnished,  and  leave  this  to  be 
burned  ?  It  is  the  same  as  if  all  these  traps 
were  buckled  to  a  man's  belt,  and  he  could  not 
move  over  the  rough  country  where  our  lines 
are  cast  without  dragging  them,  —  dragging  his 
trap.  He  was  a  lucky  fox  that  left  his  tail  in 
the  trap.  The  muskrat  will  gnaw  his  third  leg 
off  to  be  free.  No  wonder  man  has  lost  his 
elasticity.  How  often  he  is  at  a  dead  set !  "Sir, 
if  I  may  be  so  bold,  what  do  you  mean  by  a 
dead  set?"  If  you  are  a  seer,  whenever  you 
meet  a  man  you  will  see  all  that  he  owns,  ay, 
and  much  that  he  pretends  to  disown,  behind 
him,  even  to  his  kitchen  furniture  and  all  the 
trumpery  which  he  saves  and  will  not  burn,  and 
he  will  appear  to  be  harnessed  to  it  and  making 
what  headway  he  can.  I  think  that  the  man 
is  at  a  dead  set  who  has  got  through  a  knot  hole 
or  gateway  where  his  sledge  load  of  furniture 


cannot  follow  him.  I  cannot  but  feel  compas 
sion  when  I  hear  some  trig,  compact-looking 
man,  seemingly  free,  all  girded  and  ready,  speak 
of  his  "furniture,"  as  whether  it  is  insured  or 
not.  "But  what  shall  I  do  with  my  furniture?" 
My  gay  butterfly  is  entangled  in  a  spider's  web 
then.  Even  those  who  seem  for  a  long  while 
not  to  have  any,  if  you  inquire  more  narrowly 
you  will  find  have  some  stored  in  somebody's 
barn.  I  look  upon  England  to-day  as  an  old 
gentleman  who  is  travelling  with  a  great  deal 
of  baggage,  trumpery  which  has  accumulated 
from  long  housekeeping,  which  he  has  not  the 
courage  to  burn ;  great  trunk,  little  trunk,  band 
box,  and  bundle.  Throw  away  the  first  three 
at  least.  It  would  surpass  the  powers  of  a  well 
man  nowadays  to  take  up  his  bed  and  walk, 
and  I  should  certainly  advise  a  sick  one  to  lay 
down  his  bed  and  run.  When  I  have  met  an 
immigrant  tottering  under  a  bundle  which  con 
tained  his  all  —  looking  like  an  enormous  wen 
which  had  grown  out  of  the  nape  of  his  neck  — 
I  have  pitied  him,  not  because  that  was  his  all, 
but  because  he  had  all  that  he  could  carry.  If 
I  have  got  to  drag  my  trap,  I  will  take  care  that 
it  be  a  light  one  and  do  not  nip  me  in  a  vital 
part.  But  perchance  it  would  be  wisest  never 
to  put  one's  paw  into  it. 

I  would  observe,  by  the  way,  that  it  costs  me 
nothing  for  curtains,  for  I  have  no  gazers  to  shut 


out  but  the  sun  and  moon,  and  I  am  willing  that 
they  should  look  in.  The  moon  will  not  sour 
milk  nor  taint  meat  of  mine,  nor  will  the  sun 
injure  my  furniture  or  fade  my  carpet,  and  if  he 
is  sometimes  too  warm  a  friend,  I  find  it  still 
better  economy  to  retreat  behind  some  cur 
tain  which  nature  has  provided,  than  to  add 
a  single  item  to  the  details  of  housekeeping. 
A  lady  once  offered  me  a  mat,  but  as  I  had 
no  room  to  spare  within  the  house,  nor  time  to 
spare  within  or  without  to  shake  it,  I  declined 
it,  preferring  to  wipe  my  feet  on  the  sod  before 
my  door.  It  is  best  to  avoid  the  beginnings  of 

Not  long  since  I  was  present  at  the  auction  of 
a  deacon's  effects,  for  his  life  had  not  been 
ineffectual :  - 

"The  evil  that  men  do  lives  after  them." 

As  usual,  a  great  proportion  was  trumpery  which 
had  begun  to  accumulate  in  his  father's  day. 
Among  the  rest  was  a  dried  tapeworm.  And 
now,  after  lying  half  a  century  in  his  garret  and 
other  dust  holes,  these  things  were  not  burned; 
instead  of  a  bonfire,  or  purifying  destruction  of 
them,  there  was  an  auction,  or  increasing 
of  them.  The  neighbors  eagerly  collected  to 
view  them,  bought  them  all,  and  carefully  trans 
ported  them  to  their  garrets  and  dust  holes,  to 
lie  there  till  their  estates  are  settled,  when  they 


will  start  again.      When  a  man  dies  he  kicks 
the  dust. 

The  customs  of  some  savage  nations  might, 
perchance,  be  profitably  imitated  by  us,  for  they 
at  least  go  through  the  semblance  of  casting  their 
slough  annually ;  they  have  the  idea  of  the  thing, 
whether  they  have  the  reality  or  not.  Would  it 
not  be  well  if  we  were  to  celebrate  such  a  "busk," 
or  "feast  of  first  fruits,"  as  Bartram  describes  to 
have  been  the  custom  of  the  Mucclasse  Indians  ? 
"When  a  town  celebrates  the  busk,"  says  he, 
"having  previously  provided  themselves  with 
new  clothes,  new  pots,  pans,  and  other  house 
hold  utensils  and  furniture,  they  collect  all  their 
worn-out  clothes  and  other  despicable  things, 
sweep  and  cleanse  their  houses,  squares,  and  the 
whole  town,  of  their  filth,  which  with  all  the 
remaining  grain  and  other  old  provisions  they 
cast  together  into  one  common  heap,  and  con 
sume  it  with  fire.  After  having  taken  medicine, 
and  fasted  for  three  days,  all  the  fire  in  the  town  is 
extinguished.  During  this  fast  they  abstain  from 
the  gratification  of  every  appetite  and  passion 
whatever.  A  general  amnesty  is  proclaimed ;  all 
malefactors  may  return  to  their  town.  .  .  . 

"On  the  fourth  morning,  the  high  priest,  by 
rubbing  dry  wood  together,  produces  new  fire  in 
the  public  square,  from  whence  every  habitation 
in  the  town  is  supplied  with  the  new  and  pure 


They  then  feast  on  the  new  corn  and  fruits 
and  dance  and  sing  for  three  days,  "and  the 
four  following  days  they  receive  visits  and  re 
joice  with  their  friends  from  neighboring  towns 
who  have  in  like  manner  purified  and  prepared 

The  Mexicans  also  practised  a  similar  purifi 
cation  at  the  end  of  every  fifty-two  years,  in  the 
belief  that  it  was  time  for  the  world  to  come  to 
an  end. 

I  have  scarcely  heard  of  a  truer  sacrament, 
that  is,  as  the  dictionary  defines  it,  "outward  and 
visible  sign  of  an  inward  and  spiritual  grace," 
than  this,  and  I  have  no  doubt  that  they  were 
originally  inspired  directly  from  heaven  to  do 
thus,  though  they  have  no  Biblical  record  of  the 

For  more  than  five  years  I  maintained  myself 
thus  solely  by  the  labor  of  my  hands,  and  I  found 
that  by  working  about  six  weeks  in  a  year,  I 
could  meet  all  the  expenses  of  living.  The  whole 
of  my  winters,  as  well  as  most  of  my  summers,  I 
had  free  and  clear  for  study.  I  have  thoroughly 
tried  school-keeping,  and  found  that  my  expenses 
were  in  proportion,  or  rather  out  of  proportion, 
to  my  income,  for  I  was  obliged  to  dress  and 
train,  not  to  say  think  and  believe,  accordingly, 
and  I  lost  my  time  into  the  bargain.  As  I  did  not 
teach  for  the  good  of  my  fellow-men,  but  simply 


for  a  livelihood,  this  was  a  failure.  I  have  tried 
trade;  but  I  found  that  it  would  take  ten  years 
to  get  under  way  in  that,  and  that  then  I  should 
probably  be  on  my  way  to  the  devil.  I  was 
actually  afraid  that  I  might  by  that  time  be 
doing  what  is  called  a  good  business.  When  for 
merly  I  was  looking  about  to  see  what  I  could 
do  for  a  living,  some  sad  experience  in  conform 
ing  to  the  wishes  of  friends  being  fresh  in  my 
mind  to  tax  my  ingenuity,  I  thought  often  and 
seriously  of  picking  huckleberries;  that  surely 
I  could  do,  and  its  small  profits  might  suffice,  — 
for  my  greatest  skill  has  been  to  want  but  little, 
—  so  little  capital  it  required,  so  little  distraction 
from  my  wonted  moods,  I  foolishly  thought. 
While  my  acquaintances  went  unhesitatingly  into 
trade  or  the  professions,  I  contemplated  this  occu 
pation  as  most  like  theirs;  ranging  the  hills  all 
summer  to  pick  the  berries  which  came  in  my 
way,  and  thereafter  carelessly  dispose  of  them; 
so,  to  keep  the  flocks  of  Admetus.  I  also  dreamed 
that  I  might  gather  the  wild  herbs,  or  carry  ever 
greens  to  such  villagers  as  loved  to  be  reminded 
of  the  woods,  even  to  the  city,  by  hay-cart  loads. 
But  I  have  since  learned  that  trade  curses 
everything  it  handles;  and  though  you  trade  in 
messages  from  heaven,  the  whole  curse  of  trade 
attaches  to  the  business. 

As  I  preferred  some  things  to  others,  and  espe 
cially  valued  my  freedom,  as  I  could  fare  hard 


and  yet  succeed  well,  I  did  not  wish  to  spend  my 
time  in  earning  rich  carpets  or  other  fine  furni 
ture,  or  delicate  cookery,  or  a  house  in  the  Gre 
cian  or  the  Gothic  style  just  yet.  If  there  are 
any  to  whom  it  is  no  interruption  to  acquire 
these  things,  and  who  know  how  to  use  them 
when  acquired,  I  relinquish  to  them  the  pursuit. 
Some  are  "industrious,"  and  appear  to  love 
labor  for  its  own  sake,  or  perhaps  because  it 
keeps  them  out  of  wTorse  mischief;  to  such  I 
have  at  present  nothing  to  say.  Those  who  would 
not  know  what  to  do  with  more  leisure  than  they 
now  enjoy,  I  might  advise  to  work  twice  as  hard 
as  they  do,  -  -  work  till  they  pay  for  themselves, 
and  get  their  free  papers.  For  myself  I  found 
that  the  occupation  of  a  day-laborer  was  the  most 
independent  of  any,  especially  as  it  required  only 
thirty  or  forty  days  in  a  year  to  support  one.  The 
laborer's  day  ends  with  the  going  down  of  the 
sun,  and  he  is  then  free  to  devote  himself  to  his 
chosen  pursuit,  independent  of  his  labor ;  but  his 
employer,  who  speculates  from  month  to  month, 
has  no  respite  from  one  end  of  the  year  to  the 

In  short,  I  am  convinced,  both  by  faith  and 
experience,  that  to  maintain  one's  self  on  this 
earth  is  not  a  hardship  but  a  pastime,  if  we  will 
live  simply  and  wisely;  as  the  pursuits  of  the 
simpler  nations  are  still  the  sports  of  the  more 
artificial.  It  is  not  necessary  that  a  man  should 


earn  his  living  by  the  sweat  of  his  brow,  unless 
he  sweats  easier  than  I  do. 

One  young  man  of  my  acquaintance,  who  has 
inherited  some  acres,  told  me  that  he  thought  he 
should  live  as  I  did,  if  he  had  the  means.  I 
would  not  have  any  one  adopt  my  mode  of  liv 
ing  on  any  account ;  for,  besides  that  before  he 
has  fairly  learned  it  I  may  have  found  out  an 
other  for  myself,  I  desire  that  there  may  be  as 
many  different  persons  in  the  world  as  possible; 
but  I  would  have  each  one  be  very  careful  to  find 
out  and  pursue  his  own  way,  and  not  his  father's 
or  his  mother's  or  his  neighbor's  instead.  The 
youth  may  build  or  plant  or  sail,  only  let  him  not 
be  hindered  from  doing  that  which  he  tells  me 
he  would  like  to  do.  It  is  by  a  mathematical 
point  only  that  we  are  wise,  as  the  sailor  or  the 
fugitive  slave  keeps  the  polestar  in  his  eye;  but 
that  is  sufficient  guidance  for  all  our  life.  We 
may  not  arrive  at  our  port  within  a  calculable 
period,  but  we  would  preserve  the  true  course. 

Undoubtedly,  in  this  case,  what  is  true  for  one 
is  truer  still  for  a  thousand,  as  a  large  house  is  not 
proportionally  more  expensive  than  a  small  one, 
since  one  roof  may  cover,  one  cellar  underlie, 
and  one  wall  separate  several  apartments.  But 
for  my  part,  I  preferred  the  solitary  dwelling. 
Moreover,  it  will  commonly  be  cheaper  to  build 
the  whole  yourself  than  to  convince  another  of 
the  advantage  of  the  common  wall;  and  when 

A  glimpse  of  Walden 


you  have  done  this,  the  common  partition,  to  be 
much  cheaper,  must  be  a  thin  one,  and  that  other 
may  prove  a  bad  neighbor,  and  also  not  keep 
his  side  in  repair.  The  only  cooperation  which 
is  commonly  possible  is  exceedingly  partial  and 
superficial;  and  what  little  true  cooperation 
there  is,  is  as  if  it  were  not,  being  a  harmony 
inaudible  to  men.  If  a  man  has  faith  he  will  co 
operate  with  equal  faith  everywhere;  if  he  has 
not  faith,  he  will  continue  to  live  like  the  rest  of 
the  world,  whatever  company  he  is  joined  to. 
To  cooperate,  in  the  highest  as  well  as  the  lowest 
sense,  means  to  get  our  living  together.  I  heard 
it  proposed  lately  that  two  young  men  should 
travel  together  over  the  world,  the  one  without 
money,  earning  his  means  as  he  went,  before  the 
mast  and  behind  the  plough,  the  other  carrying 
a  bill  of  exchange  in  his  pocket.  It  was  easy  to 
see  that  they  could  not  long  be  companions  or 
cooperate,  since  one  would  not  operate  at  all. 
They  would  part  at  the  first  interesting  crisis 
in  their  adventures.  Above  all,  as  I  have  im 
plied,  the  man  who  goes  alone  can  start  to-day; 
but  he  who  travels  with  another  must  wait  till 
that  other  is  ready,  and  it  may  be  a  long  time 
before  they  get  off. 

But  all  this  is  very  selfish,  I  have  heard  some 
of  my  townsmen  say.  I  confess  that  I  have 
hitherto  indulged  very  little  in  philanthropic 


enterprises.  I  have  made  some  sacrifices  to  a 
sense  of  duty,  and  among  others  have  sacrificed 
this  pleasure  also.  There  are  those  who  have 
used  all  their  arts  to  persuade  me  to  undertake 
the  support  of  some  poor  family  in  the  town ;  and 
if  I  had  nothing  to  do,  —  for  the  devil  finds  em 
ployment  for  the  idle,  —  I  might  try  my  hand  at 
some  such  pastime  as  that.  However,  when  I 
have  thought  to  indulge  myself  in  this  respect, 
and  lay  their  Heaven  under  an  obligation  by 
maintaining  certain  poor  persons  in  all  respects 
as  comfortably  as  I  maintain  myself,  and  have 
even  ventured  so  far  as  to  make  them  the  offer, 
they  have  one  and  all  unhesitatingly  preferred 
to  remain  poor.  While  my  townsmen  and  women 
are  devoted  in  so  many  ways  to  the  good  of  their 
fellows,  I  trust  that  one  at  least  may  be  spared 
to  other  and  less  humane  pursuits.  You  must 
have  a  genius  for  charity  as  well  as  for  anything 
else.  As  for  Doing-good,  that  is  one  of  the  pro 
fessions  which  are  full.  Moreover,  I  have  tried 
it  fairly,  and,  strange  as  it  may  seem,  am  satis 
fied  that  it  does  not  agree  with  my  constitution. 
Probably  I  should  not  consciously  and  deliber 
ately  forsake  my  particular  calling  to  do  the 
good  which  society  demands  of  me,  to  save  the 
universe  from  annihilation ;  and  I  believe  that  a 
like  but  infinitely  greater  steadfastness  elsewhere 
is  all  that  now  preserves  it.  But  I  would  not 
stand  between  any  man  and  his  genius;  and  to 


him  who  does  this  work,  which  I  decline,  with 
his  whole  heart  and  soul  and  life,  I  would  say, 
Persevere,  even  if  the  world  call  it  doing  evil,  as 
it  is  most  likely  they  will. 

I  am  far  from  supposing  that  my  case  is  a 
peculiar  one;  no  doubt  many  of  my  readers 
would  make  a  similar  defence.  At  doing  some 
thing,  -  - 1  will  not  engage  that  my  neighbors 
shall  pronounce  it  good,  -  - 1  do  not  hesitate  to 
say  that  I  should  be  a  capital  fellow  to  hire; 
but  what  that  is,  it  is  for  my  employer  to  find 
out.  What  good  I  do,  in  the  common  sense  of 
that  word,  must  be  aside  from  my  main  path, 
and  for  the  most  part  wholly  unintended.  Men 
say,  practically,  Begin  where  you  are  and  such 
as  you  are,  without  aiming  mainly  to  become  of 
more  worth,  and  with  kindness  aforethought  go 
about  doing  good.  If  I  were  to  preach  at  all  in 
this  strain,  I  should  say  rather,  Set  about  being 
good.  As  if  the  sun  should  stop  when  he  has 
kindled  his  fires  up  to  the  splendor  of  a  moon  or 
a  star  of  the  sixth  magnitude,  and  go  about  like 
a  Robin  Goodfellow,  peeping  in  at  every  cot 
tage  window,  inspiring  lunatics,  and  tainting 
meats,  and  making  darkness  visible,  instead  of 
steadily  increasing  his  genial  heat  and  benefi 
cence  till  he  is  of  such  brightness  that  no  mortal 
can  look  him  in  the  face,  and  then,  and  in  the 
meanwhile  too,  going  about  the  world  in  his  own 
orbit,  doing  it  good,  or  rather,  as  a  truer  philoso- 


phy  has  discovered,  the  world  going  about  him 
getting  good.  When  Phaeton,  wishing  to  prove 
his  heavenly  birth  by  his  beneficence,  had  the 
sun's  chariot  but  one  day,  and  drove  out  of  the 
beaten  track,  he  burned  several  blocks  of  houses 
in  the  lower  streets  of  heaven,  and  scorched  the 
surface  of  the  earth,  and  dried  up  every  spring, 
and  made  the  great  desert  of  Sahara,  till  at  length 
Jupiter  hurled  him  headlong  to  the  earth  with  a 
thunderbolt,  and  the  sun,  through  grief  at  his 
death,  did  not  shine  for  a  year. 

There  is  no  odor  so  bad  as  that  which  arises 
from  goodness  tainted.  It  is  human,  it  is  divine, 
carrion.  If  I  knew  for  a  certainty  that  a  man 
was  coming  to  my  house  with  the  conscious  de 
sign  of  doing  me  good,  I  should  run  for  my  life, 
as  from  that  dry  and  parching  wind  of  the  Afri 
can  deserts  called  the  simoom,  which  fills  the 
mouth  and  nose  and  ears  and  eyes  with  dust  till 
you  are  suffocated,  for  fear  that  I  should  get  some 
of  his  good  done  to  me,  —  some  of  its  virus 
mingled  with  my  blood.  No,  —  in  this  case  I 
would  rather  suffer  evil  the  natural  way.  A  man 
is  not  a  good  man  to  me  because  he  will  feed  me  if 
I  should  be  starving,  or  warm  me  if  I  should  be 
freezing,  or  pull  me  out  of  a  ditch  if  I  should 
ever  fall  into  one.  I  can  find  you  a  Newfound 
land  dog  that  will  do  as  much.  Philanthropy 
is  not  love  for  one's  fellow-man  in  the  broadest 
sense.  Howard  was  no  doubt  an  exceedingly 


kind  and  worthy  man  in  his  way,  and  has  his 
reward;  but,  comparatively  speaking,  what  are 
a  hundred  Howards  to  us,  if  their  philanthropy 
do  not  help  us  in  our  best  estate,  when  we  are 
most  worthy  to  be  helped  ?  I  never  heard  of  a 
philanthropic  meeting  in  which  it  was  sincerely 
proposed  to  do  any  good  to  me,  or  the  like  of  me. 

The  Jesuits  were  quite  balked  by  those  In 
dians  who,  being  burned  at  the  stake,  suggested 
new  modes  of  torture  to  their  tormentors.  Being 
superior  to  physical  suffering,  it  sometimes 
chanced  that  they  were  superior  to  any  conso 
lation  which  the  missionaries  could  offer;  and 
the  law  to  do  as  you  would  be  done  by  fell  with 
less  persuasiveness  on  the  ears  of  those  who,  for 
their  part,  did  not  care  how  they  were  done  by, 
who  loved  their  enemies  after  a  new  fashion,  and 
came  very  near  freely  forgiving  them  all  they  did. 

Be  sure  that  you  give  the  poor  the  aid  they 
most  need,  though  it  be  your  example  which 
leaves  them  far  behind.  If  you  give  money, 
spend  yourself  with  it,  and  do  not  merely  aban 
don  it  to  them.  We  make  curious  mistakes 
sometimes.  Often  the  poor  man  is  not  so  cold 
and  hungry  as  he  is  dirty  and  ragged  and  gross. 
It  is  partly  his  taste,  and  not  merely  his  misfor 
tune.  If  you  give  him  money,  he  will  perhaps 
buy  more  rags  with  it.  I  was  wont  to  pity  the 
clumsy  Irish  laborers  who  cut  ice  on  the  pond, 
in  such  mean  and  ragged  clothes,  while  I  shiv- 



ered  in  my  more  tidy  and  somewhat  more  fash 
ionable  garments,  till,  one  bitter  cold  day,  one 
who  had  slipped  into  the  water  came  to  my 
house  to  warm  him,  and  I  saw  him  strip  off  three 
pairs  of  pants  and  two  pairs  of  stockings  ere  he 
got  down  to  the  skin,  though  they  were  dirty  and 
ragged  enough,  it  is  true,  and  that  he  could  af 
ford  to  refuse  the  extra  garments  wThich  I  offered 
him,  he  had  so  many  intra  ones.  This  ducking 
was  the  very  thing  he  needed.  Then  I  began  to 
pity  myself,  and  I  saw  that  it  would  be  a  greater 
charity  to  bestow  on  me  a  flannel  shirt  than  a 
whole  slop-shop  on  him.  There  are  a  thousand 
hacking  at  the  branches  of  evil  to  one  who  is 
striking  at  the  root,  and  it  may  be  that  he  who 
bestows  the  largest  amount  of  time  and  money  on 
the  needy  is  doing  the  most  by  his  mode  of  life 
to  produce  that  misery  which  he  strives  in  vain 
to  relieve.  It  is  the  pious  slave-breeder  devoting 
the  proceeds  of  every  tenth  slave  to  buy  a  Sun 
day's  liberty  for  the  rest.  Some  show  their  kind 
ness  to  the  poor  by  employing  them  in  their 
kitchens.  Would  they  not  be  kinder  if  they  em 
ployed  themselves  there  ?  You  boast  of  spend 
ing  a  tenth  part  of  your  income  in  charity; 
maybe  you  should  spend  the  nine  tenths  so,  and 
done  with  it.  Society  recovers  only  a  tenth  part 
of  the  property  then.  Is  this  owing  to  the  gener 
osity  of  him  in  whose  possession  it  is  found,  or 
to  the  remissness  of  the  officers  of  justice  ? 


Philanthropy  is  almost  the  only  virtue  which 
is  sufficiently  appreciated  by  mankind.  Nay, 
it  is  greatly  overrated;  and  it  is  our  selfishness 
which  overrates  it.  A  robust  poor  man,  one 
sunny  day  here  in  Concord,  praised  a  fellow- 
townsman  to  me,  because,  as  he  said,  he  was 
kind  to  the  poor;  meaning  himself.  The  kind 
uncles  and  aunts  of  the  race  are  more  esteemed 
than  its  true  spiritual  fathers  and  mothers.  I 
once  heard  a  reverend  lecturer  on  England,  a  man 
of  learning  and  intelligence,  after  enumerating 
her  scientific,  literary,  and  political  worthies, 
Shakspeare,  Bacon,  Cromwell,  Milton,  Newton, 
and  others,  speak  next  of  her  Christian  heroes, 
whom,  as  if  his  profession  required  it  of  him,  he 
elevated  to  a  place  far  above  all  the  rest,  as  the 
greatest  of  the  great.  They  were  Penn,  Howard, 
and  Mrs.  Fry.  Every  one  must  feel  the  false 
hood  and  cant  of  this.  The  last  were  not  Eng 
land's  best  men  and  women ;  only,  perhaps,  her 
best  philanthropists. 

I  would  not  subtract  anything  from  the  praise 
that  is  due  to  philanthropy,  but  merely  de 
mand  justice  for  all  who  by  their  lives  and  wrorks 
are  a  blessing  to  mankind.  I  do  not  value 
chiefly  a  man's  uprightness  and  benevolence, 
which  are,  as  it  were,  his  stem  and  leaves.  Those 
plants  of  whose  greenness  withered  we  make 
herb  tea  for  the  sick,  serve  but  a  humble  use, 
and  are  most  employed  by  quacks.  I  want  the 

100  WALDEN 

flower  and  fruit  of  a  man:  that  some  fragrance 
be  wafted  over  from  him  to  me,  and  some  ripe 
ness  flavor  our  intercourse.  His  goodness  must 
not  be  a  partial  and  transitory  act,  but  a  con- 
stant  superfluity,  which  costs  him  nothing  and 
of  which  he  is  unconscious.  This  is  a  charity 
which  hides  a  multitude  of  sins.  The  philan 
thropist  too  often  surrounds  mankind  with  the 
remembrance  of  his  own  cast-oil"  griefs  as  an 
atmosphere,  and  calls  it  sympathy.  \Ve  should 
impart  our  courage,  and  not  our  despair,  our 
health  and  ease,  and  not  our  disease,  and  take 
one  that  this  does  not  spread  by  contagion. 
From  what  southern  plains  comes  up  the  voice 
of  wailing?  Under  what  latitudes  reside  the 
heathen  to  whom  we  would  send  light?  Who 
is  that  intemperate  and  brutal  man  whom  we 
would  redeem  •  If  anything  ail  a  man.  so  that 
he  does  not  perform  his  functions,  if  he  have  a 
pain  in  his  bowels  even,  —  for  that  is  the  seat  of 
sympathy.  —  he  forthwith  sets  about  reforming 
—  the  world.  Being  a  microcosm  himself,  he 
discovers,  and  it  is  a  true  discovery,  and  he  is 
the  man  to  make  it,  —  that  the  world  has  been 
fating  green  apples;  to  his  eyes,  in  fact,  the 
globe  itself  is  a  great  green  apple,  which  there  is 
danger  awful  to  think  of  that  the  children  of 
men  will  nibble  before  it  is  ripe;  and  straight 
way  his  drastic  philanthropy  seeks  out  the  Es 
quimau  and  the  Patagoiiian.  and  embraces  the 


populous  Indian  and  Chinese  villages;  and  thus, 
by  a  few  years  of  philanthropic  activity,  the 
powers  in  the  meanwhile  using  him  for  their 
own  ends,  no  doubt,  he  cures  himself  of  his  dys 
pepsia,  the  globe  acquires  a  faint  blush  on  one 
or  both  of  its  cheeks,  as  if  it  were  beginning  to 
be  ripe,  and  life  loses  its  crudity  and  is  once 
more  sweet  and  wholesome  to  live.  I  never 
dreamed  of  any  enormity  greater  than  I  have 
committed.  I  never  knew,  and  never  shall 
know,  a  worse  man  than  myself. 

I  believe  that  what  so  saddens  the  reformer 
is  not  his  sympathy  with  his  fellows  in  distress, 
but,  though  he  be  the  holiest  son  of  God,  is  his 
private  ail.  Let  this  be  righted,  let  the  spring 
come  to  him,  the  morning  rise  over  his  couch, 
and  he  will  forsake  his  generous  companions 
without  apology.  My  excuse  for  not  lecturing 
against  the  use  of  tobacco  is  that  I  never  chewed 
it;  that  is  a  penalty  which  reformed  tobacco 
chewers  have  to  pay;  though  there  are  things 
enough  I  have  chewed,  which  I  could  lecture 
against.  If  you  should  ever  be  betrayed  into 
any  of  these  philanthropies,  do  not  let  your  left 
hand  know  what  your  right  hand  does,  for  it  is 
not  worth  knowing.  Rescue  the  drowning  and 
tie  your  shoe-strings.  Take  your  time,  and  set 
about  some  free  labor. 

Our  manners  have  been  corrupted  by  com 
munication  with  the  saints.  Our  hymn-books 

102  WALDEN 

resound  with  a  melodious  cursing  of  God  and 
enduring  him  forever.  One  would  say  that  even 
the  prophets  and  redeemers  had  rather  consoled 
the  fears  than  confirmed  the  hopes  of  man. 
There  is  nowhere  recorded  a  simple  and  irre 
pressible  satisfaction  with  the  gift  of  life,  any 
memorable  praise  of  God.  All  health  and  suc 
cess  does  me  good,  however  far  off  and  withdrawn 
it  may  appear;  all  disease  and  failure  helps  to 
make  me  sad  and  does  me  evil,  however  much 
sympathy  it  may  have  with  me  or  I  with  it.  If, 
then,  we  would  indeed  restore  mankind  by  truly 
Indian,  botanic,  magnetic,  or  natural  means,  let 
us  first  be  as  simple  and  well  as  Nature  our 
selves,  dispel  the  clouds  which  hang  over  our 
own  brows,  and  take  up  a  little  life  into  our 
pores.  Do  not  stay  to  be  an  overseer  of  the  poor, 
but  endeavor  to  become  one  of  the  worthies  of 
the  world. 

I  read  in  the  Gulistan,  or  Flower  Garden,  of 
Sheik  Sadi  of  Shiraz,  that  "They  asked  a  wise 
man,  saying:  Of  the  many  celebrated  trees 
which  the  Most  High  God  has  created  lofty  and 
umbrageous,  they  call  none  azad,  or  free,  ex 
cepting  the  cypress,  which  bears  no  fruit;  what 
mystery  is  there  in  this  ?  He  replied :  Each  has 
its  appropriate  produce,  and  appointed  season, 
during  the  continuance  of  which  it  is  fresh  and 
blooming,  and  during  their  absence  dry  and 
withered;  to  neither  of  which  states  is  the  cy- 


press  exposed,  being  always  flourishing;  and  of 
this  nature  are  the  azads,  or  religious  independ 
ents.  —  Fix  not  thy  heart  on  that  which  is  tran 
sitory  ;  for  the  Dijlah,  or  Tigris,  will  continue  to 
flow  through  Bagdad  after  the  race  of  caliphs  is 
extinct :  if  thy  hand  has  plenty,  be  liberal  as  the 
date  tree ;  but  if  it  affords  nothing  to  give  away, 
be  an  azad,  or  free  man,  like  the  cypress." 



"Thou  dost  presume  too  much,  poor  needy  wretch, 

To  claim  a  station  in  the  firmament, 

Because  thy  humble  cottage,  or  thy  tub, 

Nurses  some  lazy  or  pedantic  virtue 

In  the  cheap  sunshine  or  by  shady  springs, 

With  roots  and  pot-herbs ;  where  thy  right  hand, 

Tearing  those  humane  passions  from  the  mind, 

Upon  whose  stocks  fair  blooming  virtues  flourish, 

Degradeth  nature,  and  benumbeth  sense, 

And,  Gorgon-like,  turns  active  men  to  stone. 

We  not  require  the  dull  society 

Of  your  necessitated  temperance, 

Or  that  unnatural  stupidity 

That  knows  nor  joy  nor  sorrow;  nor  your  forc'd 

Falsely  exalted  passive  fortitude 

Above  the  active.     This  low  abject  brood, 

That  fix  their  seats  in  mediocrity, 

Become  your  servile  minds ;  but  we  advance 

Such  virtues  only  as  admit  excess, 

Brave,  bounteous  acts,  regal  magnificence, 

All-seeing  prudence,  magnanimity 

That  knows  no  bound,  and  that  heroic  virtue 

For  which  antiquity  hath  left  no  name, 

But  patterns  only,  such  as  Hercules, 

Achilles,  Theseus.     Back  to  thy  loath'd  cell ; 

And  when  thou  seest  the  new  enlightened  sphere, 

Study  to  know  but  what  those  worthies  were." 




AT  a  certain  season  of  our  life  we  are  ac 
customed  to  consider  every  spot  as  the 
possible  site  of  a  house.  I  have  thus  sur 
veyed  the  country  on  every  side  within  a  dozen 
miles  of  where  I  live.  In  imagination  I  have 
bought  all  the  farms  in  succession,  for  all  were 
to  be  bought,  and  I  knew  their  price.  I  walked 
over  each  farmer's  premises,  tasted  his  wild 
apples,  discoursed  on  husbandry  with  him,  took 
his  farm  at  his  price,  at  any  price,  mortgaging 
it  to  him  in  my  mind;  even  put  a  higher  price 
on  it,  —  took  everything  but  a  deed  of  it,  — 
took  his  word  for  his  deed,  for  I  dearly  love  to 
talk,  —  cultivated  it,  and  him  too  to  some  ex 
tent,  I  trust,  and  withdrew  when  I  had  enjoyed 
it  long  enough,  leaving  him  to  carry  it  on.  This 
experience  entitled  me  to  be  regarded  as  a  sort 
of  real-estate  broker  by  my  friends.  Wherever 
I  sat,  there  I  might  live,  and  the  landscape  radi 
ated  from  me  accordingly.  What  is  a  house  but 
a  sedes,  a  seat  ?  —  better  if  a  country  seat.  I 
discovered  many  a  site  for  a  house  not  likely  to 
be  soon  improved,  which  some  might  have 

106  WALDEN 

thought  too  far  from  the  village,  but  to  my  eyes 
the  village  was  too  far  from  it.  Well,  there  I 
might  live,  I  said;  and  there  I  did  live,  for  an 
hour,  a  summer  and  a  winter  life;  saw  how  I 
could  let  the  years  run  off,  buffet  the  winter 
through,  and  see  the  spring  come  in.  The  future 
inhabitants  of  this  region,  wherever  they  may 
place  their  houses,  may  be  sure  that  they  have 
been  anticipated.  An  afternoon  sufficed  to  lay 
out  the  land  into  orchard,  woodlot,  and  pasture, 
and  to  decide  what  fine  oaks  or  pines  should  be 
left  to  stand  before  the  door,  and  whence  each 
blasted  tree  could  be  seen  to  the  best  advantage ; 
and  then  I  let  it  lie,  fallow  perchance,  for  a  man 
is  rich  in  proportion  to  the  number  of  things 
which  he  can  afford  to  let  alone. 

My  imagination  carried  me  so  far  that  I  even 
had  the  refusal  of  several  farms,  —  the  refusal 
was  all  I  wanted,  —  but  I  never  got  my  fingers 
burned  by  actual  possession.  The  nearest  that 
I  came  to  actual  possession  was  when  I  bought 
the  Hollowell  place,  and  had  begun  to  sort  my 
seeds,  and  collected  materials  with  which  to 
make  a  wheelbarrow  to  carry  it  on  or  off  with; 
but  before  the  owner  gave  me  a  deed  of  it,  his 
wife  —  every  man  has  such  a  wife  —  changed 
her  mind  and  wished  to  keep  it,  and  he  offered 
me  ten  dollars  to  release  him.  Now,  to  speak 
the  truth,  I  had  but  ten  cents  in  the  world,  and 
it  surpassed  my  arithmetic  to  tell,  if  I  was  that 

WHERE   I   LIVED  107 

man  who  had  ten  cents,  or  who  had  a  farm,  or 
ten  dollars,  or  all  together.  However,  I  let  him 
keep  the  ten  dollars  and  the  farm  too,  for  I  had 
carried  it  far  enough ;  or  rather,  to  be  generous, 
I  sold  him  the  farm  for  just  what  I  gave  for  it, 
and,  as  he  was  not  a  rich  man,  made  him  a 
present  of  ten  dollars,  and  still  had  my  ten  cents, 
and  seeds,  and  materials  for  a  wheelbarrow  left. 
I  found  thus  that  I  had  been  a  rich  man  with 
out  any  damage  to  my  property.  But  I  retained 
the  landscape,  and  I  have  since  annually  carried 
off  what  it  yielded  without  a  wheelbarrow.  With 
respect  to  landscapes,  - 

"I  am  monarch  of  all  I  survey, 
My  right  there  is  none  to  dispute." 

I  have  frequently  seen  a  poet  withdraw,  hav 
ing  enjoyed  the  most  valuable  part  of  a  farm, 
while  the  crusty  farmer  supposed  that  he  had 
got  a  few  wild  apples  only.  Why,  the  owner 
does  not  know  it  for  many  years  when  a  poet  has 
put  his  farm  in  rhyme,  the  most  admirable  kind 
of  invisible  fence,  has  fairly  impounded  it, 
milked  it,  skimmed  it,  and  got  all  the  cream, 
and  left  the  farmer  only  the  skimmed  milk. 

The  real  attractions  of  the  Hollowell  farm,  to 
me,  were:  its  complete  retirement,  being  about 
two  miles  from  the  village,  half  a  mile  from  the 
nearest  neighbor,  and  separated  from  the  high 
way  by  a  broad  field ;  its  bounding  on  the  river, 

108  WALDEN 

which  the  owner  said  protected  it  by  its  fogs  from 
frosts  in  the  spring,  though  that  wras  nothing  to 
me ;  the  gray  color  and  ruinous  state  of  the  house 
and  barn,  and  the  dilapidated  fences,  which  put 
such  an  interval  between  me  and  the  last  occu 
pant  ;  the  hollow  and  lichen-covered  apple  trees, 
gnawed  by  rabbits,  showing  what  kind  of  neigh 
bors  I  should  have;  but  above  all,  the  recollec 
tion  I  had  of  it  from  my  earliest  voyages  up  the 
river,  when  the  house  was  concealed  behind  a 
dense  grove  of  red  maples,  through  which  I 
heard  the  house-dog  bark.  I  was  in  haste  to 
buy  it,  before  the  proprietor  finished  getting  out 
some  rocks,  cutting  down  the  hollow  apple  trees, 
and  grubbing  up  some  young  birches  which  had 
sprung  up  in  the  pasture,  or,  in  short,  had  made 
any  more  of  his  improvements.  To  enjoy  these 
advantages  I  was  ready  to  carry  it  on;  like  At 
las,  to  take  the  world  on  my  shoulders,  —  I 
never  heard  what  compensation  he  received  for 
that,  —  and  do  all  those  things  which  had  no 
other  motive  or  excuse  but  that  I  might  pay  for 
it  and  be  unmolested  in  my  possession  of  it ;  for 
I  knew  all  the  while  that  it  would  yield  the  most 
abundant  crop  of  the  kind  I  wanted  if  I  could 
only  afford  to  let  it  alone.  But  it  turned  out  as 
I  have  said. 

All  that  I  could  say,  then,  with  respect  to 
farming  on  a  large  scale  (I  have  always  culti 
vated  a  garden),  was  that  I  had  had  my  seeds 

WHERE   I   LIVED  109 

ready.     Many  think  that  seeds  improve  with 
age.     I  have  no  doubt  that  time  discriminates 
between  the  good  and  the  bad:    and  when  at 
last  I  shall  plant,  I  shall  be  less  likely  to  be  dis 
appointed.    But  I  would  say  to  my  fellows,  once 
for  all,  As  long  as  possible  live  free  and  uncom 
mitted.     It  makes  but  little  difference  whether 
you  are  committed  to  a  farm  or  the  county  jail. 
Old   Cato,   whose   "De  Re   Rustica"   is  my 
"cultivator,"   says,  and  the  only  translation  I 
have  seen  makes  sheer  nonsense  of  the  passage, 
"When  you  think  of  getting  a  farm,  turn  it  thus 
in  your  mind,  not  to  buy  greedily;    nor  spare 
your  pains  to,  look  at  it,  and  do  not  think  it 
enough  to  go  round  it  once.     The  oftener  you 
go  there  the  more  it  will  please  you,  if  it  is  good." 
I  think  I  shall  not  buy  greedily,  but  go  round 
and  round  it  as  long  as  I  live,  and  be  buried 
in  it  first,  that  it  may  please  me  the  more  at 

The  present  was  my  next  experiment  of  this 
kind,  which  I  purpose  to  describe  more  at 
length;  for  convenience,  putting  the  experience 
of  two  years  into  one.  As  I  have  said,  I  do 
not  propose  to  write  an  ode  to  dejection,  but  to 
brag  as  lustily  as  chanticleer  in  the  morning, 
standing  on  his  roost,  if  only  to  wake  my  neigh 
bors  up. 

When  first  I  took  up  my  abode  in  the  woods, 

110  WALDEN 

that  is,  began  to  spend  my  nights  as  well  as  days 
there,  which,  by  accident,  was  on  Independence 
Day,  or  the  fourth  of  July,  1845,  my  house  was 
not  finished  for  winter,  but  was  merely  a  de 
fence  against  the  rain,  without  plastering  or 
chimney,  the  walls  being  of  rough  weather- 
stained  boards,  with  wide  chinks,  which  made 
it  cool  at  night.  The  upright  white  hewn  studs 
and  freshly  planed  door  and  window  casings 
gave  it  a  clean  and  airy  look,  especially  in  the 
morning,  when  its  timbers  were  saturated  with 
dew,  so  that  I  fancied  that  by  noon  some  sweet 
gum  would  exude  from  them.  To  my  imagina 
tion  it  retained  throughout  the  day  more  or  less 
of  this  auroral  character,  reminding  me  of  a  cer 
tain  house  on  a  mountain  which  I  had  visited 
the  year  before.  This  was  an  airy  and  unplas- 
tered  cabin,  fit  to  entertain  a  travelling  god,  and 
where  a  goddess  might  trail  her  garments.  The 
winds  which  passed  over  my  dwelling  were  such 
as  sweep  over  the  ridges  of  mountains,  bearing 
the  broken  strains,  or  celestial  parts  only,  of 
terrestrial  music.  The  morning  wind  forever 
blows,  the  poem  of  creation  is  uninterrupted; 
but  few  are  the  ears  that  hear  it.  Olympus  is 
but  the  outside  of  the  earth  everywhere. 

The  only  house  I  had  been  the  owner  of  be 
fore,  if  I  except  a  boat,  was  a  tent,  which  I 
used  occasionally  when  making  excursions  in 
the  summer,  and  this  is  still  rolled  up  in  my 

WHERE   I  LIVED  111 

garret;  but  the  boat,  after  passing  from  hand 
to  hand,  has  gone  down  the  stream  of  time. 
With  this  more  substantial  shelter  about  me, 
I  had  made  some  progress  toward  settling  in  the 
world.  This  frame,  so  slightly  clad,  was  a  sort 
of  crystallization  around  me,  and  reacted  on  the 
builder.  It  was  suggestive  somewhat  as  a  pic 
ture  in  outlines.  I  did  not  need  to  go  out  doors 
to  take  the  air,  for  the  atmosphere  within  had 
lost  none  of  its  freshness.  It  was  not  so  much 
within  doors  as  behind  a  door  where  I  sat,  even 
in  the  rainiest  weather.  The  Harivansa  says, 
"An  abode  without  birds  is  like  a  meat  without 
seasoning."  Such  was  not  my  abode,  for  I 
found  myself  suddenly  neighbor  to  the  birds; 
not  by  having  imprisoned  one,  but  having  caged 
myself  near  them.  I  was  not  only  nearer  to 
some  of  those  which  commonly  frequent  the 
garden  and  the  orchard,  but  to  those  wilder 
and  more  thrilling  songsters  of  the  forest 
which  never,  or  rarely,  serenade  a  villager,  — 
the  wood-thrush,  the  veery,  the  scarlet  tanager, 
the  field-sparrow,  the  whippoorwill,  and  many 

I  was  seated  by  the  shore  of  a  small  pond, 
about  a  mile  and  a  half  south  of  the  village  of 
Concord  and  somewhat  higher  than  it,  in  the 
midst  of  an  extensive  wood  between  that  town 
and  Lincoln,  and  about  two  miles  south  of  that 
our  only  field  known  to  fame,  Concord  Battle 


Ground ;  but  I  was  so  low  in  the  woods  that  the 
opposite  shore,  half  a  mile  off,  like  the  rest, 
covered  with  wood,  was  my  most  distant  horizon. 
For  the  first  week,  whenever  I  looked  out  on  the 
pond  it  impressed  me  like  a  tarn  high  up  on  the 
side  of  a  mountain,  its  bottom  far  above  the  sur 
face  of  other  lakes,  and,  as  the  sun  arose,  I  saw 
it  throwing  off  its  mighty  clothing  of  mist,  and 
here  and  there,  by  degrees,  its  soft  ripples  or  its 
smooth  reflecting  surface  were  revealed,  while 
the  mists,  like  ghosts,  were  stealthily  withdraw 
ing  in  every  direction  into  the  woods,  as  at  the 
breaking  up  of  some  nocturnal  conventicle.  The 
very  dew  seemed  to  hang  upon  the  trees  later 
into  the  day  than  usual,  as  on  the  sides  of 

This  small  lake  was  of  most  value  as  a  neigh 
bor  in  the  intervals  of  a  gentle  rain  storm  in 
August,  when,  both  air  and  water  being  per 
fectly  still,  but  the  sky  overcast,  mid-afternoon 
had  all  the  serenity  of  evening,  and  the  wood- 
thrush  sang  around,  and  was  heard  from  shore 
to  shore.  A  lake  like  this  is  never  smoother  than 
at  such  a  time ;  and  the  clear  portion  of  the  air 
above  it  being  shallow  and  darkened  by  clouds, 
the  water,  full  of  light  and  reflections,  becomes 
a  lower  heaven  itself  so  much  the  more  im 
portant.  From  a  hill  top  near  by,  where  the 
wood  had  recently  been  cut  off,  there  was  a 
pleasing  vista  southward  across  the  pond, 

WHERE  I   LIVED  113 

through  a  wide  indentation  in  the  hills  which 
form  the  shore  there,  where  their  opposite  sides 
sloping  toward  each  other  suggested  a  stream 
flowing  out  in  that  direction  through  a  wooded 
valley,  but  stream  there  was  none.  That  way  I 
looked  between  and  over  the  near  green  hills  to 
some  distant  and  higher  ones  in  the  horizon, 
tinged  with  blue.  Indeed,  by  standing  on  tip 
toe  I  could  catch  a  glimpse  of  some  of  the  peaks 
of  the  still  bluer  and  more  distant  mountain 
ranges  in  the  northwest,  those  true-blue  coins 
from  heaven's  own  mint,  and  also  of  some  por 
tion  of  the  village.  But  in  other  directions,  even 
from  this  point,  I  could  not  see  over  or  beyond 
the  woods  which  surrounded  me.  It  is  well  to 
have  some  water  in  your  neighborhood,  to  give 
buoyancy  to  and  float  the  earth.  One  value 
even  of  the  smallest  well  is  that  when  you  look 
into  it  you  see  that  the  earth  is  not  continent  but 
insular.  This  is  as  important  as  that  it  keeps 
butter  cool.  When  I  looked  across  the  pond 
from  this  peak  toward  the  Sudbury  meadows, 
which  in  time  of  flood  I  distinguished  elevated 
perhaps  by  a  mirage  in  their  seething  valley, 
like  a  coin  in  a  basin,  all  the  earth  beyond  the 
pond  appeared  like  a  thin  crust  insulated  and 
floated  even  by  this  small  sheet  of  intervening 
water,  and  I  was  reminded  that  this  on  which  I 
dwelt  was  but  dry  land. 

Though  the  view  from  my  door  was  still  more 

114  WALDEN 

contracted,  I  did  not  feel  crowded  or  confined 
in  the  least.  There  was  pasture  enough  for  my 
imagination.  The  low  shrub-oak  plateau  to 
which  the  opposite  shore  arose,  stretched  away 
toward  the  prairies  of  the  West  and  the  steppes 
of  Tartary,  affording  ample  room  for  all  the  rov 
ing  families  of  men.  "There  are  none  happy  in 
the  world  but  beings  who  enjoy  freely  a  vast 
horizon,"  —  said  Damodara,  when  his  herds 
required  new  and  larger  pastures. 

Both  place  and  time  were  changed  and  I 
dwelt  nearer  to  those  parts  of  the  universe  and 
to  those  eras  in  history  which  had  most  at 
tracted  me.  Where  I  live  was  as  far  off  as  many 
a  region  viewed  nightly  by  astronomers.  We 
are  wont  to  imagine  rare  and  delectable  places 
in  some  remote  and  more  celestial  corner  of  the 
system,  behind  the  constellation  of  Cassiopeia's 
Chair,  far  from  noise  and  disturbance.  I  dis 
covered  that  my  house  actually  had  its  site  in 
such  a  withdrawn,  but  forever  new  and  unpro- 
faned,  part  of  the  universe.  If  it  were  worth  the 
while  to  settle  in  those  parts  near  to  the  Pleiades 
or  the  Hyades,  to  Aldebaran  or  Altair,  then  I 
was  really  there,  or  at  an  equal  remoteness  from 
the  life  which  I  had  left  behind,  dwindled  and 
twinkling  with  as  fine  a  ray  to  my  nearest  neigh 
bor,  and  to  be  seen  only  in  moonless  nights  by 
him.  Such  was  that  part  of  creation  where  I  had 
squatted :  — 

WHERE   I   LIVED  115 

"  There  was  a  shepherd  that  did  live, 

And  held  his  thoughts  as  high 
As  were  the  mounts  whereon  his  flocks 
Did  hourly  feed  him  by." 

What  should  we  think  of  the  shepherd's  life  if 
his  flocks  always  wandered  to  higher  pastures 
than  his  thoughts  ? 

Every  morning  was  a  cheerful  invitation  to 
make  my  life  of  equal  simplicity,  and  I  may 
say  innocence,  with  Nature  herself.  I  have 
been  as  sincere  a  worshipper  of  Aurora  as  the 
Greeks.  I  got  up  early  and  bathed  in  the  pond ; 
that  was  a  religious  exercise,  and  one  of  the 
best  things  which  I  did.  They  say  that  char 
acters  wrere  engraven  on  the  bathing  tub  of  king 
Tching-thang  to  this  effect:  "Renew  thyself 
completely  each  day;  do  it  again,  and  again, 
and  forever  again."  I  can  understand  that. 
Morning  brings  back  the  heroic  ages.  I  was  as 
much  affected  by  the  faint  hum  of  a  mosquito 
making  its  invisible  and  unimaginable  tour 
through  my  apartment  at  earliest  dawn,  when  I 
was  sitting  with  door  and  windows  open,  as  I 
could  be  by  any  trumpet  that  ever  sang  of  fame. 
It  was  Homer's  requiem;  itself  an  Iliad  and 
Odyssey  in  the  air,  singing  its  own  wrath  and 
wanderings.  There  was  something  cosmical 
about  it ;  a  standing  advertisement,  till  forbidden, 
of  the  everlasting  vigor  and  fertility  of  the  world. 
The  morning,  which  is  the  most  memorable 

116  WALDEN 

season  of  the  day,  is  the  awakening  hour.  Then 
there  is  least  somnolence  in  us ;  and  for  an  hour, 
at  least,  some  part  of  us  awakes  which  slumbers 
all  the  rest  of  the  day  and  night.  Little  is  to  be 
expected  of  that  day,  if  it  can  be  called  a  day,  to 
which  we  are  not  awakened  by  our  Genius,  but 
by  the  mechanical  nudgings  of  some  servitor, 
are  not  awakened  by  our  own  newly  acquired 
force  and  aspirations  from  within,  accompanied 
by  the  undulations  of  celestial  music,  instead  of 
factory  bells,  and  a  fragrance  filling  the  air  — 
to  a  higher  life  than  we  fell  asleep  from;  and 
thus  the  darkness  bear  its  fruit,  and  prove  itself 
to  be  good,  no  less  than  the  light.  That  man 
who  does  not  believe  that  each  day  contains 
an  earlier,  more  sacred,  and  auroral  hour  than 
he  has  yet  profaned,  has  despaired  of  life,  and 
is  pursuing  a  descending  and  darkening  way. 
After  a  partial  cessation  of  his  sensuous  life, 
the  soul  of  man,  or  its  organs  rather,  are  rein- 
vigorated  each  day,  and  his  Genius  tries  again 
what  noble  life  it  can  make.  All  memorable 
events,  I  should  say,  transpire  in  morning  time 
and  in  a  morning  atmosphere.  The  Vedas  say, 
"All  intelligences  awake  with  the  morning." 
Poetry  and  art,  and  the  fairest  and  most  memo 
rable  of  the  actions  of  men,  date  from  such  an 
hour.  All  poets  and  heroes,  like  Memnon,  are 
the  children  of  Aurora,  and  emit  their  music 
at  sunrise.  To  him  whose  elastic  and  vigorous 


thought  keeps  pace  with  the  sun,  the  day  is  a 
perpetual  morning.  It  matters  not  what  the 
clocks  say  or  the  attitudes  and  labors  of  men. 
Morning  is  when  I  am  awake  and  there  is  a 
dawn  in  me.  Moral  reform  is  the  effort  to  throw 
off  sleep.  Why  is  it  that  men  give  so  poor  an 
account  of  their  day  if  they  have  not  been  slum 
bering?  They  are  not  such  poor  calculators. 
If  they  had  not  been  overcome  with  drowsiness 
they  would  have  performed  something.  The 
millions  are  awake  enough  for  physical  labor; 
but  only  one  in  a  million  is  awake  enough  for 
effective  intellectual  exertion,  only  one  in  a 
hundred  millions  to  a  poetic  or  divine  life.  To 
be  awake  is  to  be  alive.  I  have  never  yet  met 
a  man  who  was  quite  awake.  How  could  I  have 
looked  him  in  the  face  ? 

We  must  learn  to  reawaken  and  keep  our 
selves  awake,  not  by  mechanical  aids,  but  by 
an  infinite  expectation  of  the  dawn,  which  does 
not  forsake  us  in  our  soundest  sleep.  I  know 
of  no  more  encouraging  fact  than  the  unques 
tionable  ability  of  man  to  elevate  his  life  by  a 
conscious  endeavor.  It  is  something  to  be  able 
to  paint  a  particular  picture,  or  to  carve  a 
statue,  and  so  to  make  a  few  objects  beautiful ; 
but  it  is  far  more  glorious  to  carve  and  paint 
the  very  atmosphere  and  medium  through  which 
we  look,  which  morally  wre  can  do.  To  effect 
the  quality  of  the  day,  that  is  the  highest  of  arts. 

118  WALDEN 

Every  man  is  tasked  to  make  his  life,  even  in 
its  details,  worthy  of  the  contemplation  of  his 
most  elevated  and  critical  hour.  If  we  refused, 
or  rather  used  up,  such  paltry  information  as  we 
get,  the  oracles  would  distinctly  inform  us  how 
this  might  be  done. 

I  went  to  the  woods  because  I  wished  to  live 
deliberately,  to  front  only  the  essential  facts  of 
life,  and  see  if  I  could  not  learn  what  it  had  to 
teach,  and  not,  when  I  came  to  die,  discover 
that  I  had  not  lived.  I  did  not  wish  to  live  what 
was  not  life,  living  is  so  dear;  nor  did  I  wish 
to  practise  resignation,  unless  it  was  quite 
necessary.  I  wanted  to  live  deep  and  suck  out 
all  the  marrow  of  life,  to  live  so  sturdily  and 
Spartan-like  as  to  put  to  rout  all  that  was  not 
life,  to  cut  a  broad  swath  and  shave  close,  to 
drive  life  into  a  corner,  and  reduce  it  to  its 
lowest  terms,  and,  if  it  proved  to  be  mean,  why 
then  to  get  the  whole  and  genuine  meanness  of 
it,  and  publish  its  meanness  to  the  world;  or 
if  it  were  sublime,  to  know  it  by  experience, 
and  be  able  to  give  a  true  account  of  it  in  my 
next  excursion.  For  most  men,  it  appears  to 
me,  are  in  a  strange  uncertainty  about  it, 
whether  it  is  of  the  devil  or  of  God,  and  have 
somewhat  hastily  concluded  that  it  is  the  chief 
end  of  man  here  to  "glorify  God  and  enjoy  him 

Still  we  live  meanly,  like  ants;    though  the 

WHERE   I   LIVED  119 

fable  tells  us  that  we  were  long  ago  changed 
into  men;  like  pygmies  we  fight  with  cranes; 
it  is  error  upon  error,  and  clout  upon  clout,  and 
our  best  virtue  has  for  its  occasion  a  superflu 
ous  and  evitable  wretchedness.  Our*  life  is 
frittered  away  by  detail.  An  honest  man  has 
hardly  need  to  count  more  than  his  ten  fingers, 
or  in  extreme  cases  he  may  add  his  ten  toes, 
and  lump  the  rest.  Simplicity,  simplicity, 
simplicity !  I  say,  let  your  affairs  be  as  two  or 
three,  and  not  a  hundred  or  a  thousand ;  instead 
of  a  million  count  half  a  dozen,  and  keep  your 
accounts  on  your  thumb  nail.  In  the  midst  of 
this  chopping  sea  of  civilized  life,  such  are  the 
clouds  and  storms  and  quicksands  and  thousand- 
and-one  items  to  be  allowed  for,  that  a  man  has 
to  live,  if  he  would  not  founder  and  go  to  the 
bottom  and  not  make  his  port  at  all,  by  dead 
reckoning,  and  he  must  be  a  great  calculator 
indeed  who  succeeds.  Simplify,  simplify.  In 
stead  of  three  meals  a  day,  if  it  be  necessary 
eat  but  one;  instead  of  a  hundred  dishes,  five; 
and  reduce  other  things  in  proportion.  Our 
life  is  like  a  German  Confederacy,  made  up  of 
petty  states,  with  its  boundary  forever  fluctuat 
ing,  so  that  even  a  German  cannot  tell  you  how 
it  is  bounded  at  any  moment.  The  nation 
itself,  with  all  its  so-called  internal  improvements, 
which,  by  the  way,  are  all  external  and  superfi 
cial,  is  just  such  an  unwieldy  and  overgrown  estab- 

120  WALDEN 

lishment,  cluttered  with  furniture  and  tripped 
up  by  its  own  traps,  ruined  by  luxury  and 
heedless  expense,  by  want  of  calculation  and  a 
worthy  aim,  as  the  million  households  in  the 
land ;  and  the  only  cure  for  it  as  for  them  is  in 
a  rigid  economy,  a  stern  and  more  than  Spartan 
simplicity  of  life  and  elevation  of  purpose.  It 
lives  too  fast.  Men  think  that  it  is  essential  that 
the  Nation  have  commerce,  and  export  ice,  and 
talk  through  a  telegraph,  and  ride  thirty  miles 
an  hour,  without  a  doubt,  whether  they  do  or 
not;  but  whether  we  should  live  like  baboons 
or  like  men,  is  a  little  uncertain.  If  we  do  not 
get  out  sleepers,  and  forge  rails,  and  devote 
days  and  nights  to  the  work,  but  go  to  tinker 
ing  upon  our  lives  to  improve  them,  who  will 
build  railroads?  And  if  railroads  are  not  built, 
how  shall  we  get  to  heaven  in  season  ?  But  if 
we  stay  at  home  and  mind  our  business,  who 
will  want  railroads  ?  We  do  not  ride  on  the 
railroad;  it  rides  upon  us.  Did  you  ever  think 
what  those  sleepers  are  that  underlie  the  rail 
road  ?  Each  one  is  a  man,  an  Irishman,  or  a 
Yankee  man.  The  rails  are  laid  on  them,  and 
they  are  covered  with  sand,  and  the  cars  run 
smoothly  over  them.  They  are  sound  sleepers, 
I  assure  you.  And  every  few  years  a  new  lot 
is  laid  down  and  run  over ;  so  that,  if  some  have 
the  pleasure  of  riding  on  a  rail,  others  have  the 
misfortune  to  be  ridden  upon.  And  when  they 

WHERE   I   LIVED  121 

run  over  a  man  that  is  walking  in  his  sleep,  a 
supernumerary  sleeper  in  the  wrong  position, 
and  wake  him  up,  they  suddenly  stop  the  cars, 
and  make  a  hue  and  cry  about  it,  as  if  this  were 
an  exception.  I  am  glad  to  know  that  it  takes 
a  gang  of  men  for  every  five  miles  to  keep  the 
sleepers  down  and  level  in  their  beds  as  it  is, 
for  this  is  a  sign  that  they  may  sometime  get  up 

Why  should  we  live  with  such  hurry  and  waste 
of  life  ?  We  are  determined  to  be  starved  before 
we  are  hungry.  Men  say  that  a  stitch  in  time 
saves  nine,  and  so  they  take  a  thousand  stitches 
to-day  to  save  nine  to-morrow.  As  for  work, 
we  have  n't  any  of  any  consequence.  We  have 
the  Saint  Vitus'  dance,  and  cannot  possibly 
keep  our  heads  still.  If  I  should  only  give  a 
few  pulls  at  the  parish  bell-rope,  as  for  a  fire, 
that  is,  without  setting  the  bell,  there  is  hardly 
a  man  on  his  farm  in  the  outskirts  of  Concord, 
notwithstanding  that  press  of  engagements  which 
was  his  excuse  so  many  times  this  morning,  nor 
a  boy,  nor  a  woman,  I  might  almost  say,  but 
would  forsake  all  and  follow  that  sound,  not 
mainly  to  save  property  from  the  flames,  but, 
if  we  will  confess  the  truth,  much  more  to  see 
it  burn,  since  burn  it  must,  and  we,  be  it  known, 
did  not  set  it  on  fire,  —  or  to  see  it  put  out, 
and  have  a  hand  in  it,  if  that  is  done  as  hand 
somely;  yes,  even  if  it  were  the  parish  church 


itself.  Hardly  a  man  takes  a  half  hour's  nap 
after  dinner,  but  when  he  wakes  he  holds  up  his 
head  and  asks,  "What's  the  news?"  as  if  the 
rest  of  mankind  had  stood  his  sentinels.  Some 
give  directions  to  be  waked  every  half  hour, 
doubtless  for  no  other  purpose;  and  then,  to 
pay  for  it,  they  tell  what  they  have  dreamed. 
After  a  night's  sleep  the  news  is  as  indispensable 
as  the  breakfast.  "Pray  tell  me  anything  new 
that  has  happened  to  a  man  anywhere  on  this 
globe,"  —  and  he  reads  it  over  his  coffee  and 
rolls,  that  a  man  has  had  his  eyes  gouged  out 
this  morning  on  the  Wachito  River;  never 
dreaming  the  while  that  he  lives  in  the  dark 
unfathomed  mammoth  cave  of  this  world,  and 
has  but  the  rudiment  of  an  eye  himself. 

For  my  part,  I  could  easily  do  without  the 
post-office.  I  think  that  there  are  very  few 
important  communications  made  through  it. 
To  speak  critically,  I  never  received  more  than 
one  or  two  letters  in  my  life  —  I  wrote  this  some 
years  ago  —  that  were  worth  the  postage.  The 
penny-post  is,  commonly,  an  institution  through 
which  you  seriously  offer  a  man  that  penny  for 
his  thought  which  is  so  often  safely  offered  in 
jest,  And  I  am  sure  that  I  never  read  any 
memorable  news  in  a  newspaper.  If  we  read 
of  one  man  robbed,  or  murdered,  or  killed  by 
accident,  or  one  house  burned,  or  one  vessel 
wrecked,  or  one  steamboat  blown  up,  or  one 

WHERE   I   LIVED  123 

cow  run  over  on  the  Western  Railroad,  or  one 
mad  dog  killed,  or  one  lot  of  grasshoppers  in 
the  winter, --we  never  need  read  of  another. 
One  is  enough.  If  you  are  acquainted  with  the 
principle,  what  do  you  care  for  a  myriad  instances 
and  applications  ?  To  a  philosopher  all  news, 
as  it  is  called,  is  gossip,  and  they  who  edit  and 
read  it  are  old  women  over  their  tea.  Yet  not 
a  few  are  greedy  after  this  gossip.  There  was 
such  a  rush,  as  I  hear,  the  other  day  at  one  of 
the  offices  to  learn  the  foreign  news  by  the  last 
arrival,  that  several  large  squares  of  plate  glass 
belonging  to  the  establishment  were  broken  by 
the  pressure,  —  news  which  I  seriously  think 
a  ready  wit  might  write  a  twelvemonth  or  twelve 
years  beforehand  with  sufficient  accuracy.  As 
for  Spain,  for  instance,  if  you  know  how  to 
throw  in  Don  Carlos  and  the  Infanta,  and  Don 
Pedro  and  Seville  and  Granada,  from  time  to 
time  in  the  right  proportions,  --they  may  have 
changed  the  names  a  little  since  I  saw  the  papers, 
-  and  serve  up  a  bull-fight  when  other  enter 
tainments  fail,  it  will  be  true  to  the  letter,  and 
give  us  as  good  an  idea  of  the  exact  state  or  ruin 
of  things  in  Spain  as  the  most  succinct  and  lucid 
reports  under  this  head  in  the  newspapers :  and 
as  for  England,  almost  the  last  significant  scrap 
of  news  from  that  quarter  was  the  revolution 
of  1649;  and  if  you  have  learned  the  history  of 
her  crops  for  an  average  year,  you  never  need 

124  WALDEN 

attend  to  that  thing  again,  unless  your  specula 
tions  are  of  a  merely  pecuniary  character.  If 
one  may  judge  who  rarely  looks  into  the  news 
papers,  nothing  new  does  ever  happen  in  foreign 
parts,  a  French  revolution  not  excepted. 

What  news !  how  much  more  important  to 
know  what  that  is  which  was  never  old  !  "  Kieou- 
he-yu  (great  dignitary  of  the  state  of  Wei)  sent 
a  man  to  Khoung-tseu  to  know  his  news. 
Khoung-tseu  caused  the  messenger  to  be  seated 
near  him,  and  questioned  him  in  these  terms: 
What  is  your  master  doing?  The  messenger 
answered  with  respect:  My  master  desires  to 
diminish  the  number  of  his  faults,  but  he  can 
not  come  to  the  end  of  them.  The  messenger 
being  gone,  the  philosopher  remarked :  What 
a  worthy  messenger !  What  a  worthy  mes 
senger!"  The  preacher,  instead  of  vexing  the 
ears  of  drowsy  farmers  on  their  day  of  rest  at 
the  end  of  the  week,  —  for  Sunday  is  the  fit 
conclusion  of  an  ill-spent  week,  and  not  the 
fresh  and  brave  beginning  of  a  new  one,  —  with 
this  one  other  draggletail  of  a  sermon,  should 
shout  with  thundering  voice,  —  "Pause  !  Avast ! 
Why  so  seeming  fast,  but  deadly  slow?" 

Shams  and  delusions  are  esteemed  for  sound 
est  truths,  while  reality  is  fabulous.  If  men 
would  steadily  observe  realities  only,  and  not 
allow  themselves  to  be  deluded,  life,  to  compare 
it  with  such  things  as  we  know,  would  be  like 

WHERE   I   LIVED  125 

a  fairy  tale  and  the  Arabian  Nights'  Entertain 
ments.  If  we  respected  only  what  is  inevitable 
and  has  a  right  to  be,  music  and  poetry  would 
resound  along  the  streets.  When  we  are  un 
hurried  and  wise,  we  perceive  that  only  great 
and  worthy  things  have  any  permanent  and 
absolute  existence,  —  that  petty  fears  and  petty 
pleasures  are  but  the  shadow  of  the  reality.  This 
is  always  exhilarating  and  sublime.  By  closing 
the  eyes  and  slumbering,  and  consenting  to  be 
deceived  by  shows,  men  establish  and  confirm 
their  daily  life  of  routine  and  habit  everywhere, 
which  still  is  built  on  purely  illusory  foundations. 
Children,  who  play  life,  discern  its  true  law  and 
relations  more  clearly  than  men,  who  fail  to 
live  it  worthily,  but  who  think  that  they  are 
wiser  by  experience,  that  is,  by  failure.  I  have 
read  in  a  Hindoo  book  that  "  There  was  a  king's 
son,  who,  being  expelled  in  infancy  from  his 
native  city,  was  brought  up  by  a  forester,  and, 
growing  up  to  maturity  in  that  state,  imagined 
himself  to  belong  to  the  barbarous  race  with 
which  he  lived.  One  of  his  father's  ministers 
having  discovered  him,,  revealed  to  him  what 
he  was,  and  the  misconception  of  his  character 
was  removed,  and  he  knew  himself  to  be  a 
prince.  So  soul,"  continues  the  Hindoo  phil 
osopher,  "from  the  circumstances  in  which  it 
is  placed,  mistakes  its  own  character,  until  the 
truth  is  revealed  to  it  by  some  holy  teacher,  and 

126  WALDEN 

then  it  knows  itself  to  be  Brahme."  I  perceive 
that  we  inhabitants  of  New  England  live  this 
mean  life  that  we  do  because  our  vision  does  not 
penetrate  the  surface  of  things.  We  think  that 
that  is  which  appears  to  be.  If  a  man  should 
walk  through  this  town  and  see  only  the  reality, 
where,  think  you,  would  the  "Mill-dam"  go 
to?  If  he  should  give  us  an  account  of  the 
realities  he  beheld  there,  we  should  not  recog 
nize  the  place  in  his  description.  Look  at  a 
meeting-house,  or  a  court-house,  or  a  jail,  or  a 
shop,  or  a  dwelling-house,  and  say  what  that 
thing  really  is  before  a  true  gaze,  and  they  would 
all  go  to  pieces  in  your  account  of  them.  Men 
esteem  truth  remote,  in  the  outskirts  of  the  sys 
tem,  behind  the  farthest  star,  before  Adam  and 
after  the  last  man.  In  eternity  there  is  indeed 
something  true  and  sublime.  But  all  these 
times  and  places  and  occasions  are  now  and 
here.  God  Himself  culminates  in  the  present 
moment,  and  will  never  be  more  divine  in  the 
lapse  of  all  the  ages.  And  we  are  enabled  to 
apprehend  at  all  what  is  sublime  and  noble 
only  by  the  perpetual  instilling  and  drenching 
of  the  reality  that  surrounds  us.  The  uni 
verse  constantly  and  obediently  answers  to  our 
conceptions;  whether  we  travel  fast  or  slow, 
the  track  is  laid  for  us.  Let  us  spend  our 
lives  in  conceiving  then.  The  poet  or  the  art 
ist  never  yet  had  so  fair  and  noble  a  design 

WHERE   I   LIVED  127 

but  some  of  his  posterity  at  least  could  accom 
plish  it. 

Let  us  spend  one  day  as  deliberately  as  Nature, 
and  not  be  thrown  off  the  track  by  every  nutshell 
and  mosquito's  wing  that  falls  on  the  rails.  Let 
us  rise  early  and  fast,  or  break  fast,  gently  and 
without  perturbation;  let  company  come  and 
let  company  go,  let  the  bells  ring  and  the  children 
cry,  —  determined  to  make  a  day  of  it.  Why 
should  we  knock  under  and  go  with  the  stream  ? 
Let  us  not  be  upset  and  overwhelmed  in  that 
terrible  rapid  and  whirlpool  called  a  dinner, 
situated  in  the  meridian  shallows.  Weather  this 
danger  and  you  are  safe,  for  the  rest  of  the  way 
is  down  hill.  With  unrelaxed  nerves,  with 
morning  vigor,  sail  by  it,  looking  another  way, 
tied  to  the  mast  like  Ulysses.  If  the  engine 
whistles,  let  it  whistle  till  it  is  hoarse  for  its 
pains.  If  the  bell  rings,  why  should  we  run  ? 
We  will  consider  what  kind  of  music  they  are 
like.  Let  us  settle  ourselves,  and  work  and 
wedge  our  feet  downward  through  the  mud 
and  slush  of  opinion,  and  prejudice,  and  tradi 
tion,  and  delusion  and  appearance,  that  alluvion 
which  covers  the  globe,  through  Paris  and 
London,  through  New  York  and  Boston  and 
Concord,  through  church  and  state,  through 
poetry  and  philosophy  and  religion,  till  we  come 
to  a  hard  bottom  and  rocks  in  place,  which  we 
can  call  reality,  and  say,  This  is,  and  no  mistake ; 

128  WALDEN 

and  then  begin,  having  a  point  d'appui,  below 
freshet  and  frost  and  fire,  a  place  where  you 
might  found  a  wall  or  a  state,  or  set  a  lamp 
post  safely,  or  perhaps  a  gauge,  not  a  Nilometer, 
but  a  Realometer,  that  future  ages  might  know 
how  deep  a  freshet  of  shams  and  appearances 
had  gathered  from  time  to  time.  If  you  stand 
right  fronting  and  face  to  face  to  a  fact,  you 
will  see  the  sun  glimmer  on  both  its  surfaces, 
as  if  it  were  a  cimeter,  and  feel  its  sweet  edge 
dividing  you  through  the  heart  and  marrow, 
and  so  you  will  happily  conclude  your  mortal 
career.  Be  it  life  or  death,  we  crave  only  reality. 
If  we  are  really  dying,  let  us  hear  the  rattle  in 
our  throats  and  feel  cold  in  the  extremities;  if 
we  are  alive,  let  us  go  about  our  business. 

Time  is  but  the  stream  I  go  a-fishing  in.  I 
drink  at  it;  but  while  I  drink  I  see  the  sandy 
bottom  and  detect  how  shallow  it  is.  Its  thin 
current  slides  away,  but  eternity  remains.  I 
would  drink  deeper;  fish  in  the  sky,  whose  bot 
tom  is  pebbly  with  stars.  I  cannot  count  one. 
I  know  not  the  first  letter  of  the  alphabet,  I  have 
always  been  regretting  that  I  was  not  as  wise  as 
the  day  I  was  born.  The  intellect  is  a  cleaver; 
it  discerns  and  rifts  its  way  into  the  secret  of 
things.  I  do  not  wish  to  be  any  more  busy  with 
my  hands  than  is  necessary.  My  head  is  hands 
and  feet.  I  feel  all  my  best  faculties  concen 
trated  in  it.  My  instinct  tells  me  that  my  head 

WHERE  I   LIVED  129 

is  an  organ  for  burrowing,  as  some  creatures  use 
their  snout  and  fore-paws,  and  with  it  I  would 
mine  and  burrow  my  way  through  these  hills. 
I  think  that  the  richest  vein  is  somewhere  here 
abouts;  so  by  the  divining  rod  and  thin  rising 
vapors  I  judge;  and  here  I  will  begin  to  mine. 



WTH  a  little  more  deliberation  in  the 
choice  of  their  pursuits,  all  men  would 
perhaps  become  essentially  students 
and  observers,  for  certainly  their  nature  and 
destiny  are  interesting  to  all  alike.  In  accumu 
lating  property  for  ourselves  or  our  posterity,  in 
founding  a  family  or  a  state,  or  acquiring  fame 
even,  we  are  mortal ;  but  in  dealing  with  truth  we 
are  immortal,  and  need  fear  no  change  nor  acci 
dent.  The  oldest  Egyptian  or  Hindoo  philoso 
pher  raised  a  corner  of  the  veil  from  the  statue 
of  the  divinity;  and  still  the  trembling  robe  re 
mains  raised,  and  I  gaze  upon  as  fresh  a  glory  as 
he  did,  since  it  was  I  in  him  that  was  then  so 
bold,  and  it  is  he  in  me  that  now  reviews  the 
vision.  No  dust  has  settled  on  that  robe;  no 
time  has  elapsed  since  that  divinity  was  revealed. 
That  time  which  we  really  improve,  or  which  is 
improvable,  is  neither  past,  present,  nor  future. 
My  residence  was  more  favorable,  not  only  to 
thought,  but  to  serious  reading,  than  a  university ; 
and  though  I  was  beyond  the  range  of  the  ordi 
nary  circulating  library,  I  had  more  than  ever 


come  within  the  influence  of  those  books  which 
circulate  round  the  world,  whose  sentences  were 
first  written  on  bark,  and  are  now  merely  copied 
from  time  to  time  on  to  linen  paper.  Says  the 
poet  Mir  Camar  Uddin  Mast,  "Being  seated  to 
run  through  the  region  of  the  spiritual  world;  I 
have  had  this  advantage  in  books.  To  be  in 
toxicated  by  a  single  glass  of  wine;  I  have  ex 
perienced  this  pleasure  when  I  have  drunk  the 
liquor  of  the  esoteric  doctrines."  I  kept  Homer's 
Iliad  on  my  table  through  the  summer,  though  I 
looked  at  his  page  only  now  and  then.  Inces 
sant  labor  with  my  hands,  at  first,  for  I  had  my 
house  to  finish  and  my  beans  to  hoe  at  the  same 
time,  made  more  study  impossible.  Yet  I  sus 
tained  myself  by  the  prospect  of  such  reading  in 
future.  I  read  one  or  two  shallow  books  of  travel 
in  the  intervals  of  my  work,  till  that  employment 
made  me  ashamed  of  myself,  and  I  asked  where 
it  was  then  that  I  lived. 

The  student  may  read  Homer  or  JEschylus  in 
the  Greek  without  danger  of  dissipation  or  luxu- 
riousness,  for  it  implies  that  he  in  some  measure 
emulate  their  heroes,  and  consecrate  morning 
hours  to  their  pages.  The  heroic  books,  even  if 
printed  in  the  character  of  our  mother  tongue, 
will  always  be  in  a  language  dead  to  degenerate 
times ;  and  we  must  laboriously  seek  the  meaning 
of  each  word  and  line,  conjecturing  a  larger  sense 
than  common  use  permits  out  of  what  wisdom 

132  WALDEN 

and  valor  and  generosity  we  have.  The  modern 
cheap  and  fertile  press,  with  all  its  translations, 
has  done  little  to  bring  us  nearer  to  the  heroic 
writers  of  antiquity.  They  seem  as  solitary,  and 
the  letter  in  which  they  are  printed  as  rare  and 
curious,  as  ever.  It  is  worth  the  expense  of  youth 
ful  days  and  costly  hours,  if  you  learn  only  some 
words  of  an  ancient  language,  which  are  raised 
out  of  the  trivialness  of  the  street,  to  be  perpetual 
suggestions  and  provocations.  It  is  not  in  vain 
that  the  farmer  remembers  and  repeats  the  few 
Latin  words  which  he  has  heard.  Men  some 
times  speak  as  if  the  study  of  the  classics  would 
at  length  make  way  for  more  modern  and  prac 
tical  studies;  but  the  adventurous  student  will 
always  study  classics,  in  whatever  language  they 
may  be  written  and  however  ancient  they  may 
be.  For  what  are  the  classics  but  the  noblest 
recorded  thoughts  of  man  ?  They  are  the  only 
oracles  which  are  not  decayed,  and  there  are 
such  answers  to  the  most  modern  inquiry  in  them 
as  Delphi  and  Dodona  never  gave.  We  might 
as  well  omit  to  study  Nature  because  she  is  old. 
To  read  well,  that  is,  to  read  true  books  in  a  true 
spirit,  is  a  noble  exercise,  and  one  that  will  task 
the  reader  more  than  any  exercise  which  the 
customs  of  the  day  esteem.  It  requires  a  train 
ing  such  as  the  athletes  underwent,  the  steady 
intention  almost  of  the  whole  life  to  this  object. 
Books  must  be  read  as  deliberately  and  reserv- 


edly  as  they  were  written.  It  is  not  enough  even 
to  be  able  to  speak  the  language  of  that  nation 
by  which  they  are  written,  for  there  is  a  memo 
rable  interval  between  the  spoken  and  the  written 
language,  the  language  heard  and  the  language 
read.  The  one  is  commonly  transitory,  a  sound, 
a  tongue,  a  dialect  merely,  almost  brutish,  and 
we  learn  it  unconsciously,  like  the  brutes,  of  our 
mothers.  The  other  is  the  maturity  and  experi 
ence  of  that;  if  that  is  our  mother  tongue,  this 
is  our  father  tongue,  a  reserved  and  select  ex 
pression,  too  significant  to  be  heard  by  the  ear, 
which  we  must  be  born  again  in  order  to  speak. 
The  crowds  of  men  who  merely  spoke  the  Greek 
and  Latin  tongues  in  the  Middle  Ages  were  not 
entitled  by  the  accident  of  birth  to  read  the  works 
of  genius  written  in  those  languages;  for  these 
were  not  written  in  that  Greek  or  Latin  which 
they  knew,  but  in  the  select  language  of  litera 
ture.  They  had  not  learned  the  nobler  dialects 
of  Greece  and  Rome,  but  the  very  materials  on 
which  they  were  written  were  waste  paper  to 
them,  and  they  prized  instead  a  cheap  contem 
porary  literature.  But  when  the  several  nations 
of  Europe  had  acquired  distinct  though  rude 
written  languages  of  their  own,  sufficient  for  the 
purposes  of  their  rising  literatures,  then  first  learn 
ing  revived,  and  scholars  were  enabled  to  discern 
from  that  remoteness  the  treasures  of  antiquity. 
What  the  Roman  and  Grecian  multitude  could 

134  WALDEN 

not  hear,  after  the  lapse  of  ages  a  few  scholars 
read,  and  a  few  scholars  only  are  still  reading  it. 

However  much  we  may  admire  the  orator's 
occasional  bursts  of  eloquence,  the  noblest 
written  words  are  commonly  as  far  behind  or 
above  the  fleeting  spoken  language  as  the  fir 
mament  with  its  stars  is  behind  the  clouds. 
There  are  the  stars,  and  they  who  can  may 
read  them.  The  astronomers  forever  comment 
on  and  observe  them.  They  are  not  exhalations 
like  our  daily  colloquies  and  vaporous  breath. 
What  is  called  eloquence  in  the  forum  is  com 
monly  found  to  be  rhetoric  in  the  study.  The 
orator  yields  to  the  inspiration  of  a  transient 
occasion,  and  speaks  to  the  mob  before  him, 
to  those  who  can  hear  him ;  but  the  writer,  whose 
more  equable  life  is  his  occasion,  and  who  would 
be  distracted  by  the  event  and  the  crowd  which 
inspire  the  orator,  speaks  to  the  intellect  and 
heart  of  mankind,  to  all  in  any  age  who  can  un 
derstand  him. 

No  wonder  that  Alexander  carried  the  Iliad 
with  him  on  his  expeditions  in  a  precious  casket. 
A  written  word  is  the  choicest  of  relics.  It  is 
something  at  once  more  intimate  with  us  and 
more  universal  than  any  other  work  of  art.  It 
is  the  work  of  art  nearest  to  life  itself.  It  may 
be  translated  into  every  language,  and  not  only 
be  read  but  actually  breathed  from  all  human 
lips ;  —  not  be  represented  on  canvas  or  in  marble 

Where   Thoreau  s  cabin  stood 


only,  but  be  carved  out  of  the  breath  of  life  itself. 
The  symbol  of  an  ancient  man's  thought  becomes 
a  modern  man's  speech.  Two  thousand  summers 
have  imparted  to  the  monuments  of  Grecian  lit 
erature,  as  to  her  marbles,  only  a  maturer  golden 
and  autumnal  tint,  for  they  have  carried  their 
own  serene  and  celestial  atmosphere  into  all 
lands  to  protect  them  against  the  corrosion  of 
time.  Books  are  the  treasured  wealth  of  the 
world  and  the  fit  inheritance  of  generations  and 
nations.  Books,  the  oldest  and  the  best,  stand 
naturally  and  rightfully  on  the  shelves  of  every 
cottage.  They  have  no  cause  of  their  own  to 
plead,  but  while  they  enlighten  and  sustain  the 
reader  his  common  sense  will  not  refuse  them. 
Their  authors  are  a  natural  and  irresistible 
aristocracy  in  every  society,  and,  more  than  kings 
or  emperors,  exert  an  influence  on  mankind. 
When  the  illiterate  and  perhaps  scornful  trader 
has  earned  by  enterprise  and  industry  his  cov 
eted  leisure  and  independence,  and  is  admitted 
to  the  circles  of  wealth  and  fashion,  he  turns  in 
evitably  at  last  to  those  still  higher  but  yet  inac 
cessible  circles  of  intellect  and  genius,  and  is  sen 
sible  only  of  the  imperfection  of  his  culture  and 
the  vanity  and  insufficiency  of  all  his  riches,  and 
further  proves  his  good  sense  by  the  pains  which 
he  takes  to  secure  for  his  children  that  intellectual 
culture  whose  want  he  so  keenly  feels ;  and  thus 
it  is  that  he  becomes  the  founder  of  a  family. 

136  WALDEN 

Those  who  have  not  learned  to  read  the  an 
cient  classics  in  the  language  in  which  they  were 
written  must  have  a  very  imperfect  knowledge 
of  the  history  of  the  human  race;    for  it  is  re 
markable  that  no  transcript  of  them  has  ever 
been  made  into  any  modern  tongue,  unless  our 
civilization  itself  may   be  regarded   as   such   a 
transcript.     Homer  has  never  yet  been  printed 
in  English,  nor  ^Eschylus,  nor  Virgil  even,  — 
works  as  refined,  as  solidly  done,  and  as  beauti 
ful  almost  as  the  morning  itself ;  for  later  writers, 
say  what  we  will  of  their  genius,  have  rarely,  if 
ever,  equalled  the  elaborate  beauty  and  finish 
and  the  lifelong  and  heroic  literary  labors  of  the 
ancients.    They  only  talk  of  forgetting  them  who 
never  knew  them.     It  will  be  soon  enough  to 
forget   them   when   we   have   the   learning   and 
the  genius  which  will  enable  us  to  attend  to  and 
appreciate  them.     That  age  will  be  rich  indeed 
when  those  relics  which  we  call  Classics,  and 
the  still  older  and  more  than  classic  but  even  less 
known  Scriptures  of  the  nations,  shall  have  still 
further  accumulated,  when  the  Vaticans  shall  be 
filled  with  Vedas  and  Zendavestas  and  Bibles, 
with  Homers  and  Dantes  and  Shakspeares,  and 
all  the  centuries  to  come  shall  have  successively 
deposited   their   trophies   in   the   forum   of   the 
world.     By  such  a  pile  we  may  hope  to  scale 
heaven  at  last. 

The  works  of  the  great  poets  have  never  yet 


been  read  by  mankind,  for  only  great  poets  can 
read  them.  They  have  only  been  read  as  the 
multitude  read  the  stars,  at  most  astrologically, 
not  astronomically.  Most  men  have  learned  to 
read  to  serve  a  paltry  convenience,  as  they  have 
learned  to  cipher  in  order  to  keep  accounts  and 
not  be  cheated  in  trade;  but  of  reading  as  a 
noble  intellectual  exercise  they  know  little  or 
nothing ;  yet  this  only  is  reading,  in  a  high  sense, 
not  that  which  lulls  us  as  a  luxury  and  suffers  the 
nobler  faculties  to  sleep  the  while,  but  what  we 
have  to  stand  on  tiptoe  to  read  and  devote  our 
most  alert  and  wakeful  hours  to. 

I  think  that  having  learned  our  letters  we 
should  read  the  best  that  is  in  literature,  and  not 
be  forever  repeating  our  a  b  abs,  and  wrords  of 
one  syllable,  in  the  fourth  or  fifth  classes,  sitting 
on  the  lowest  and  foremost  form  all  our  lives. 
Most  men  are  satisfied  if  they  read  or  hear  read, 
and  perchance  have  been  convicted  by  the  wis 
dom  of  one  good  book,  the  Bible,  and  for  the  rest 
of  their  lives  vegetate  and  dissipate  their  faculties 
in  what  is  called  easy  reading.  There  is  a  work 
in  several  volumes  in  our  Circulating  Library  en 
titled  Little  Reading,  which  I  thought  referred 
to  a  town  of  that  name  which  I  had  not  been  to. 
There  are  those  who,  like  cormorants  and  os 
triches,  can  digest  all  sorts  of  this,  even  after  the 
fullest  dinner  of  meats  and  vegetables,  for  they 
suffer  nothing  to  be  wasted.  If  others  are  the 

138  WALDEN 

machines  to  provide  this  provender,  they  are  the 
machines  to  read  it.  They  read  the  nine  thou 
sandth  tale  about  Zebulon  and  Sephronia,  and 
how  they  loved  as  none  had  ever  loved  before, 
and  neither  did  the  course  of  their  true  love  run 
smooth,  —  at  any  rate,  how  it  did  run  and  stum 
ble,  and  get  up  again  and  go  on !  how  some 
poor  unfortunate  got  up  on  to  a  steeple,  who  had 
better  never  have  gone  up  as  far  as  the  belfry; 
and  then,  having  needlessly  got  him  up  there, 
the  happy  novelist  rings  the  bell  for  all  the  world 
to  come  together  and  hear,  O  dear !  how  he 
did  get  down  again !  For  my  part,  I  think  that 
they  had  better  metamorphose  all  such  aspiring 
heroes  of  universal  noveldom  into  man  weather 
cocks,  as  they  used  to  put  heroes  among  the  con 
stellations,  and  let  them  swing  round  there  till 
they  are  rusty,  and  not  come  down  at  all  to  bother 
honest  men  with  their  pranks.  The  next  time 
the  novelist  rings  the  bell  I  will  not  stir  though 
the  meeting-house  burn  down.  "The  Skip  of  the 
Tip-Toe-Hop,  a  Romance  of  the  Middle  Ages, 
by  the  celebrated  author  of  'Tittle-Tol-Tan,'  to 
appear  in  monthly  parts;  a  great  rush;  don't 
all  come  together."  All  this  they  read  with  saucer 
eyes,  and  erect  and  primitive  curiosity,  and  with 
unwearied  gizzard,  whose  corrugations  even  yet 
need  no  sharpening,  just  as  some  little  four-year- 
old  bencher  his  two-cent  gilt-covered  edition  of 
Cinderella,  —  without  any  improvement,  that  I 


can  see,  in  the  pronunciation,  or  accent,  or  em 
phasis,  or  any  more  skill  in  extracting  or  insert 
ing  the  moral.  The  result  is  dulness  of  sight,  a 
stagnation  of  the  vital  circulations,  and  a  general 
deliquium  and  sloughing  off  of  all  the  intellectual 
faculties.  This  sort  of  gingerbread  is  baked 
daily  and  more  sedulously  than  pure  wheat  or 
rye-and-Indian  in  almost  every  oven,  and  finds  a 
surer  market. 

The  best  books  are  not  read  even  by  those  who 
are  called  good  readers.  What  does  our  Concord 
culture  amount  to  ?  There  is  in  this  town,  with 
a  very  few  exceptions,  no  taste  for  the  best  or 
for  very  good  books  even  in  English  literature, 
whose  words  all  can  read  and  spell.  Even  the 
college-bred  and  so-called  liberally  educated  men 
here  and  elsewhere  have  really  little  or  no  ac 
quaintance  with  the  English  classics ;  and  as  for 
the  recorded  wisdom  of  mankind,  the  ancient 
classics  and  Bibles,  which  are  accessible  to  all 
who  will  know  of  them,  there  are  the  feeblest 
efforts  anywhere  made  to  become  acquainted 
with  them.  I  know  a  woodchopper,  of  middle 
age,  who  takes  a  French  paper,  not  for  news  as 
he  says,  for  he  is  above  that,  but  to  "keep  him 
self  in  practice,"  he  being  a  Canadian  by  birth ; 
and  when  I  ask  him  what  he  considers  the  best 
thing  he  can  do  in  this  world,  he  says,  besides 
this,  to  keep  up  and  add  to  his  English.  This  is 
about  as  much  as  the  college-bred  generally  do 

140  WALDEN 

or  aspire  to  do,  and  they  take  an  English  paper 
for  the  purpose.  One  who  has  just  come  from 
reading  perhaps  one  of  the  best  English  books 
will  find  how  many  with  whom  he  can  converse 
about  it  ?  Or  suppose  he  comes  from  reading  a 
Greek  or  Latin  classic  in  the  original,  whose 
praises  are  familiar  even  to  the  so-called  illit 
erate  ;  he  will  find  nobody  at  all  to  speak  to,  but 
must  keep  silence  about  it.  Indeed,  there  is 
hardly  the  professor  in  our  colleges  who,  if  he 
has  mastered  the  difficulties  of  the  language,  has 
proportionately  mastered  the  difficulties  of  the 
wit  and  poetry  of  a  Greek  poet,  and  has  any 
sympathy  to  impart  to  the  alert  and  heroic 
reader;  and  as  for  the  sacred  Scriptures,  or 
Bibles  of  mankind,  who  in  this  town  can  tell  me 
even  their  titles  ?  Most  men  do  not  know  that 
any  nation  but  the  Hebrews  have  had  a  scrip 
ture.  A  man,  any  man,  will  go  considerably  out 
of  his  way  to  pick  up  a  silver  dollar ;  but  here  are 
golden  words,  which  the  wisest  men  of  antiquity 
have  uttered,  and  whose  worth  the  wise  of  every 
succeeding  age  have  assured  us  of ;  —  and  yet 
we  learn  to  read  only  as  far  as  Easy  Reading,  the 
primers  and  class-books,  and  when  we  leave 
school,  the  "Little  Reading,"  and  story  books, 
which  are  for  boys  and  beginners ;  and  our  read 
ing,  our  conversation  and  thinking,  are  all  on  a 
very  low  level,  worthy  only  of  pygmies  and 


I  aspire  to  be  acquainted  with  wiser  men  than 
this  our  Concord  soil  has  produced,  whose 
names  are  hardly  known  here.  Or  shall  I  hear 
the  name  of  Plato  and  never  read  his  book  ?  As 
if  Plato  were  my  townsman  and  I  never  saw 
him,  —  my  next  neighbor  and  I  never  heard 
him  speak  or  attended  to  the  wisdom  of  his 
words.  But  how  actually  is  it  ?  His  Dialogues, 
which  contain  what  was  immortal  in  him,  lie 
on  the  next  shelf,  and  yet  I  never  read  them. 
We  are  under-bred  and  low-lived  and  illiterate; 
and  in  this  respect  I  confess  I  do  not  make  any 
very  broad  distinction  between  the  illiterate- 
ness  of  my  townsman  who  cannot  read  at  all, 
and  the  illiterateness  of  him  who  has  learned  to 
read  only  what  is  for  children  and  feeble  intel 
lects.  We  should  be  as  good  as  the  worthies  of 
antiquity,  but  partly  by  first  knowing  how  good 
they  were.  We  are  a  race  of  tit-men,  and  soar 
but  little  higher  in  our  intellectual  flights  than 
the  columns  of  the  daily  paper. 

It  is  not  all  books  that  are  as  dull  as  their 
readers.  There  are  probably  words  addressed 
to  our  condition  exactly,  which,  if  we  could  really 
hear  and  understand,  would  be  more  salutary 
than  the  morning  or  the  spring  to  our  lives,  and 
possibly  put  a  new  aspect  on  the  face  of  things 
for  us.  How  many  a  man  has  dated  a  new  era 
in  his  life  from  the  reading  of  a  book.  The  book 
exists  for  us  perchance  which  will  explain  our 

142  WALDEN 

miracles  and  reveal  new  ones.  The  at  present 
unutterable  things  we  may  find  somewhere  ut 
tered.  These  same  questions  that  disturb  and 
puzzle  and  confound  us  have  in  their  turn  oc 
curred  to  all  the  wise  men;  not  one  has  been 
omitted;  and  each  has  answered  them,  accord 
ing  to  his  ability,  by  his  words  and  his  life. 
Moreover,  with  wisdom  we  shall  learn  liberality. 
The  solitary  hired  man  on  a  farm  in  the  out 
skirts  of  Concord,  who  has  had  his  second  birth 
and  peculiar  religious  experience,  and  is  driven 
as  he  believes  into  silent  gravity  and  exclusive- 
ness  by  his  faith,  may  think  it  is  not  true;  but 
Zoroaster,  thousands  of  years  ago,  travelled  the 
same  road  and  had  the  same  experience;  but 
he,  being  wise,  knew  it  to  be  universal,  and 
treated  his  neighbors  accordingly,  and  is  even 
said  to  have  invented  and  established  worship 
among  men.  Let  him  humbly  commune  with 
Zoroaster  then,  and,  through  the  liberalizing  in 
fluence  of  all  the  worthies,  with  Jesus  Christ 
Himself,  and  let  "our  church"  go  by  the  board. 
We  boast  that  we  belong  to  the  nineteenth 
century  and  are  making  the  most  rapid  strides  of 
any  nation.  But  consider  how  little  this  vil 
lage  does  for  its  own  culture.  I  do  not  wish  to 
flatter  my  townsmen,  nor  to  be  flattered  by  them, 
for  that  will  not  advance  either  of  us.  We  need 
to  be  provoked,  —  goaded  like  oxen,  as  we  are, 
into  a  trot.  We  have  a  comparatively  decent 


system  of  common  schools,  schools  for  infants 
only;  but  excepting  the  half-starved  Lyceum  in 
the  winter,  and  latterly  the  puny  beginning  of  a 
library  suggested  by  the  state,  no  school  for  our 
selves.  We  spend  more  on  almost  any  article 
of  bodily  aliment  or  ailment  than  on  our  mental 
aliment.  It  is  time  that  we  had  uncommon 
schools,  that  we  did  not  leave  off  our  education 
when  we  begin  to  be  men  and  women.  It  is 
time  that  villages  were  universities,  and  their 
elder  inhabitants  the  fellows  of  universities, 
with  leisure  —  if  they  are  indeed  so  well  off  — 
to  pursue  liberal  studies  the  rest  of  their  lives. 
Shall  the  world  be  confined  to  one  Paris  or  one 
Oxford  forever?  Cannot  students  be  boarded 
here  and  get  a  liberal  education  under  the  skies 
of  Concord  ?  Can  we  not  hire  some  Abelard  to 
lecture  to  us  ?  Alas  !  what  with  foddering  the 
cattle  and  tending  the  store,  we  are  kept  from 
school  too  long,  and  our  education  is  sadly  neg 
lected.  In  this  country,  the  village  should  in 
some  respects  take  the  place  of  the  nobleman 
of  Europe.  It  should  be  the  patron  of  the  fine 
arts.  It  is  rich  enough.  It  wants  only  the  mag 
nanimity  and  refinement.  It  can  spend  money 
enough  on  such  things  as  farmers  and  traders 
value,  but  it  is  thought  Utopian  to  propose 
spending  money  for  things  which  more  intelli 
gent  men  know  to  be  of  far  more  worth.  This 
town  has  spent  seventeen  thousand  dollars  on  a 

144  WALDEN 

townhouse,  thank  fortune  or  politics,  but  prob 
ably  it  will  not  spend  so  much  on  living  wit,  the 
true  meat  to  put  into  that  shell,  in  a  hundred 
years.  The  one  hundred  and  twenty-five  dol 
lars  annually  subscribed  for  a  Lyceum  in  the 
winter  is  better  spent  than  any  other  equal  sum 
raised  in  the  town.  If  we  live  in  the  nineteenth 
century,  why  should  we  not  enjoy  the  advan 
tages  which  the  nineteenth  century  offers  ?  Why 
should  our  life  be  in  any  respect  provincial  ?  If 
we  will  read  newspapers,  why  not  skip  the  gos 
sip  of  Boston  and  take  the  best  newspaper  in  the 
world  at  once  ?  —  not  be  sucking  the  pap  of 
"neutral  family"  papers,  or  browsing  "Olive 
Branches"  here  in  New  England.  Let  there- 
ports  of  all  the  learned  societies  come  to  us,  and 
we  will  see  if  they  know  anything.  Why  should 
we  leave  it  to  Harper  &  Brothers  and  Redding 
&  Co.  to  select  our  reading?  As  the  nobleman 
of  cultivated  taste  surrounds  himself  with  what 
ever  conduces  to  his  culture,  —  genius  —  learn 
ing  —  wit  —  books  —  paintings  —  statuary  - 
music  —  philosophical  instruments,  and  the  like ; 
so  let  the  village  do,  —  not  stop  short  at  a  peda 
gogue,  a  parson,  a  sexton,  a  parish  library,  and 
three  selectmen,  because  our  pilgrim  forefathers 
got  through  a  cold  winter  once  on  a  bleak  rock 
with  these.  To  act  collectively  is  according  to 
the  spirit  of  our  institutions ;  and  I  am  confident 
that,  as  our  circumstances  are  more  flourishing, 


our  means  are  greater  than  the  nobleman's. 
New  England  can  hire  all  the  wise  men  in  the 
world  to  come  and  teach  her,  and  board  them 
round  the  while,  and  not  be  provincial  at  all. 
That  is  the  uncommon  school  we  want.  Instead 
of  noblemen,  let  us  have  noble  villages  of  men. 
If  it  is  necessary,  omit  one  bridge  over  the  river, 
go  round  a  little  there,  and  throw  one  arch  at 
least  over  the  darker  gulf  of  ignorance  which 
surrounds  us. 



BUT  while  we  are  confined  to  books,  though 
the  most  select  and  classic,  and  read  only 
particular  written  languages,  which  are 
themselves  but  dialects  and  provincial,  we  are 
in  danger  of  forgetting  the  language  which  all 
things  and  events  speak  without  metaphor, 
which  alone  is  copious  and  standard.  Much  is 
published,  but  little  printed.  The  rays  which 
stream  through  the  shutter  will  be  no  longer  re 
membered  when  the  shutter  is  wholly  removed. 
No  method  nor  discipline  can  supersede  the 
necessity  of  being  forever  on  the  alert.  What  is 
a  course  of  history,  or  philosophy,  or  poetry,  no 
matter  how  well  selected,  or  the  best  society,  or 
the  most  admirable  routine  of  life,  compared 
with  the  discipline  of  looking  always  at  what  is 
to  be  seen  ?  Will  you  be  a  reader,  a  student 
merely,  or  a  seer?  Read  your  fate,  see  what  is 
before  you,  and  walk  on  into  futurity. 

I  did  not  read  books  the  first  summer;  I 
hoed  beans.  Nay,  I  often  did  better  than  this. 
There  were  times  when  I  could  not  afford  to 
sacrifice  the  bloom  of  the  present  moment  to  any 

SOUNDS  147 

work,  whether  of  the  head  or  hands.  I  love  a 
broad  margin  to  my  life.  Sometimes,  in  a  sum 
mer  morning,  having  taken  my  accustomed  bath, 
I  sat  in  my  sunny  doorway  from  sunrise  till  noon, 
rapt  in  a  revery,  amidst  the  pines  and  hickories 
and  sumachs,  in  undisturbed  solitude  and  still 
ness,  while  the  birds  sang  around  or  flitted  noise 
less  through  the  house,  until  by  the  sun  falling 
in  at  my  west  window,  or  the  noise  of  some 
traveller's  wagon  on  the  distant  highway,  I  was 
reminded  of  the  lapse  of  time.  I  grew  in  those 
seasons  like  corn  in  the  night,  and  they  were  far 
better  than  any  work  of  the  hands  would  have 
been.  They  were  not  time  subtracted  from  my 
life,  but  so  much  over  and  above  my  usual  al 
lowance.  I  realized  what  the  Orientals  mean 
by  contemplation  and  the  forsaking  of  works. 
For  the  most  part,  I  minded  not  how  the  hours 
went.  The  day  advanced  as  if  to  light  some 
work  of  mine;  it  was  morning,  and  lo,  now  it 
is  evening,  and  nothing  memorable  is  accom 
plished.  Instead  of  singing  like  the  birds,  I 
silently  smiled  at  my  incessant  good  fortune. 
As  the  sparrow  had  its  trill,  sitting  on  the  hick 
ory  before  my  door,  so  had  I  my  chuckle  or  sup 
pressed  warble  which  he  might  hear  out  of  my 
nest.  My  days  were  not  days  of  the  week,  bear 
ing  the  stamp  of  any  heathen  deity,  nor  were 
they  minced  into  hours  and  fretted  by  the  tick 
ing  of  a  clock ;  for  I  lived  like  the  Puri  Indians, 

148  WALDEN 

of  whom  it  is  said  that  "for  yesterday,  to-day, 
and  to-morrow  they  have  only  one  word,  and 
they  express  the  variety  of  meaning  by  pointing 
backward  for  yesterday,  forward  for  to-morrow, 
and  overhead  for  the  passing  day."  This  was 
sheer  idleness  to  my  fellow-townsmen,  no  doubt ; 
but  if  the  birds  and  flowers  had  tried  me  by  their 
standard,  I  should  not  have  been  found  wanting. 
A  man  must  find  his  occasions  in  himself,  it  is 
true.  The  natural  day  is  very  calm,  and  will 
hardly  reprove  his  indolence. 

I  had  this  advantage,  at  least,  in  my  mode  of 
life,  over  those  who  were  obliged  to  look  abroad 
for  amusement,  to  society  and  the  theatre,  that 
my  life  itself  was  become  my  amusement  and 
never  ceased  to  be  novel.  It  was  a  drama  of 
many  scenes  and  without  an  end.  If  we  were 
always  indeed  getting  our  living,  and  regulating 
our  lives  according  to  the  last  and  best  mode  we 
had  learned,  we  should  never  be  troubled  with 
ennui.  Follow  your  genius  closely  enough,  and 
it  will  not  fail  to  show  you  a  fresh  prospect  every 
hour.  Housework  was  a  pleasant  pastime. 
When  my  floor  was  dirty,  I  rose  early,  and. 
setting  all  my  furniture  out  of  doors  on  the 
grass,  bed  and  bedstead  making  but  one  budget, 
dashed  water  on  the  floor,  and  sprinkled  white 
sand  from  the  pond  on  it,  and  then  with  a  broom 
scrubbed  it  clean  and  white;  and  by  the  time 
the  villagers  had  broken  their  fast  the  morning 

SOUNDS  149 

sun  had  dried  my  house  sufficiently  to  allow  me 
to  move  in  again,  and  my  meditations  were  al 
most  uninterrupted.  It  was  pleasant  to  see  my 
whole  household  effects  out  on  the  grass,  mak 
ing  a  little  pile  like  a  gypsy's  pack,  and  my  three- 
legged  table,  from  which  I  did  not  remove  the 
books  and  pen  and  ink,  standing  amid  the  pines 
and  hickories.  They  seemed  glad  to  get  out 
themselves,  and  as  if  unwilling  to  be  brought  in. 
I  was  sometimes  tempted  to  stretch  an  awning 
over  them  and  take  my  seat  there.  It  was  worth 
the  while  to  see  the  sun  shine  on  these  things, 
and  hear  the  free  wind  blow  on  them ;  so  much 
more  interesting  most  familiar  objects  look  out 
doors  than  in  the  house.  A  bird  sits  on  the  next 
bough,  life-everlasting  grows  under  the  table, 
and  blackberry  vines  run  round  its  legs;  pine 
cones,  chestnut  burs,  and  strawberry  leaves  are 
strewn  about.  It  looked  as  if  this  was  the  way 
these  forms  came  to  be  transferred  to  our  fur 
niture,  to  tables,  chairs,  and  bedstead, -- be 
cause  they  once  stood  in  their  midst. 

My  house  was  on  the  side  of  a  hill,  immedi 
ately  on  the  edge  of  the  larger  wood,  in  the 
midst  of  a  young  forest  of  pitch  pines  and  hick 
ories,  and  half  a  dozen  rods  from  the  pond,  to 
which  a  narrow  footpath  led  down  the  hill.  In 
my  front  yard  grew  the  strawberry,  blackberry, 
and  life-everlasting,  johnswort  and  goldenrod, 
shrub-oaks  and  sand-cherry,  blueberry  and 

150  WALDEN 

ground-nut  Near  the  end  of  May,  the  sand- 
cherry  (cerasus  pumila)  adorned  the  sides  of  the 
path  with  its  delicate  flowers  arranged  in  um 
bels  cylindrically  about  its  short  stems,  which 
last,  in  the  fall,  weighed  down  with  good-sized 
and  handsome  cherries,  fell  over  in  wreaths  like 
rays  on  every  side.  I  tasted  them  out  of  compli 
ment  to  Nature,  though  they  were  scarcely  pala 
table.  The  sumach  (rhus  glabra)  grew  luxuri 
antly  about  the  house,  pushing  up  through  the 
embankment  which  I  had  made,  and  growing 
five  or  six  feet  the  first  season.  Its  broad  pinnate 
tropical  leaf  was  pleasant  though  strange  to  look 
on.  The  large  buds,  suddenly  pushing  out  late 
in  the  spring  from  dry  sticks  which  had  seemed 
to  be  dead,  developed  themselves  as  by  magic 
into  graceful  green  and  tender  boughs,  an  inch 
in  diameter ;  and  sometimes,  as  I  sat  at  my  win 
dow,  so  heedlessly  did  they  grow  and  tax  their 
weak  joints,  I  heard  a  fresh  and  tender  bough 
suddenly  fall  like  a  fan  to  the  ground,  when 
there  was  not  a  breath  of  air  stirring,  broken  off 
by  its  own  weight.  In  August,  the  large  masses 
of  berries,  which,  when  in  flower,  had  attracted 
many  wild  bees,  gradually  assumed  their  bright 
velvety  crimson  hue,  and  by  their  weight  again 
bent  down  and  broke  the  tender  limbs. 

As  I  sit  at  my  window  this  summer  afternoon, 
hawks  are  circling  about  my  clearing;  the  tan 
tivy  of  wild  pigeons,  flying  by  twos  and  threes 

SOUNDS  151 

athwart  my  view,  or  perching  restless  on  the 
white-pine  boughs  behind  my  house,  gives  a 
voice  to  the  air;  a  fishhawk  dimples  the  glassy 
surface  of  the  pond  and  brings  up  a  fish;  a 
mink  steals  out  of  the  marsh  before  my  door  and 
seizes  a  frog  by  the  shore;  the  sedge  is  bending 
under  the  weight  of  the  reed-birds  flitting  hither 
and  thither;  and  for  the  last  half  hour  I  have 
heard  the  rattle  of  railroad  cars,  now  dying  away 
and  then  reviving  like  the  beat  of  a  partridge, 
conveying  travellers  from  Boston  to  the  country. 
For  I  did  not  live  so  out  of  the  world  as  that  boy 
who,  as  I  hear,  was  put  out  to  a  farmer  in  the 
east  part  of  the  town,  but  erelong  ran  away  and 
came  home  again,  quite  down  at  the  heel  and 
homesick.  He  had  never  seen  such  a  dull  and 
out-of-the-way  place;  the  folks  were  all  gone 
off ;  why,  you  could  n't  even  hear  the  whistle ! 
I  doubt  if  there  is  such  a  place  in  Massachusetts 
now :  - 

"In  truth,  our  village  has  become  a  butt 
For  one  of  those  fleet  railroad  shafts,  and  o'er 
Our  peaceful  plain  its  soothing  sound  is  —  Concord." 

The  Fitchburg  Railroad  touches  the  pond 
about  a  hundred  rods  south  of  where  I  dwell.  I 
usually  go  to  the  village  along  its  causeway,  and 
am,  as  it  were,  related  to  society  by  this  link. 
The  men  on  the  freight  trains,  who  go  over  the 
whole  length  of  the  road,  bow  to  me  as  to  an  old 
acquaintance,  they  pass  me  so  often,  and  ap- 


parently  they  take  me  for  an  employee;  and  so 
I  am.  I  too  would  fain  be  a  track-repairer 
somewhere  in  the  orbit  of  the  earth. 

The  whistle  of  the  locomotive  penetrates  my 
woods  summer  and  winter,  sounding  like  the 
scream  of  a  hawk  sailing  over  some  farmer's 
yard,  informing  me  that  many  restless  city  mer 
chants  are  arriving  within  the  circle  of  the  town, 
or  adventurous  country  traders  from  the  other 
side.  As  they  come  under  one  horizon,  they 
shout  their  warning  to  get  off  the  track  to  the 
other,  heard  sometimes  through  the  circles  of 
two  towns.  Here  come  your  groceries,  country; 
your  rations,  countrymen !  Nor  is  there  any 
man  so  independent  on  his  farm  that  he  can  say 
them  nay.  And  here's  your  pay  for  them ! 
screams  the  countryman's  whistle;  timber  like 
long  battering  rams  going  twenty  miles  an  hour 
against  the  city's  walls,  and  chairs  enough  to 
seat  all  the  weary  and  heavy  laden  that  dwell 
within  them.  With  such  huge  and  lumbering 
civility  the  country  hands  a  chair  to  the  city. 
All  the  Indian  huckleberry  hills  are  stripped,  all 
the  cranberry  meadows  are  raked  into  the  city. 
Up  comes  the  cotton,  down  goes  the  woven  cloth ; 
up  comes  the  silk,  down  goes  the  woollen;  up 
come  the  books,  but  down  goes  the  wit  that  writes 

When  I  meet  the  engine  with  its  train  of  cars 
moving  off  with  planetary  motion,  —  or,  rather, 

SOUNDS  153 

like  a  comet,  for  the  beholder  knows  not  if  with 
that  velocity  and  with  that  direction  it  will  ever 
revisit  this  system,  since  its  orbit  does  not  look 
like  a  returning  curve,  —  with  its  steam  cloud 
like  a  banner  streaming  behind  in  golden  and 
silver  wreaths,  like  many  a  downy  cloud  which 
I  have  seen,  high  in  the  heavens,  unfolding  its 
masses  to  the  light,  —  as  if  this  travelling  demi 
god,  this  cloud-compeller,  would  erelong  take 
the  sunset  sky  for  the  livery  of  his  train ;  when 
I  hear  the  iron  horse  make  the  hills  echo  with 
his  snort  like  thunder,  shaking  the  earth  with 
his  feet,  and  breathing  fire  and  smoke  from  his 
nostrils  (what  kind  of  winged  horse  or  fiery 
dragon  they  will  put  into  the  new  Mythology 
I  don't  know),  it  seems  as  if  the  earth  had  got  a 
race  now  worthy  to  inhabit  it.  If  all  were  as  it 
seems,  and  men  made  the  elements  their  servants 
for  noble  ends !  If  the  cloud  that  hangs  over 
the  engine  were  the  perspiration  of  heroic  deeds, 
or  as  beneficent  as  that  which  floats  over  the 
farmer's  fields,  then  the  elements  and  Nature 
herself  would  cheerfully  accompany  men  on 
their  errands  and  be  their  escort. 

I  watch  the  passage  of  the  morning  cars  with 
the  same  feeling  that  I  do  the  rising  of  the  sun, 
which  is  hardly  more  regular.  Their  train  of 
clouds  stretching  far  behind  and  rising  higher 
and  higher,  going  to  heaven  while  the  cars  are 
going  to  Boston,  conceals  the  sun  for  a  minute 

154  WALDEN 

and  casts  my  distant  field  into  the  shade,  a 
celestial  train  beside  which  the  petty  train  of 
cars  which  hugs  the  earth  is  but  the  barb  of  the 
spear.  The  stabler  of  the  iron  horse  was  up 
early  this  winter  morning  by  the  light  of  the 
stars  amid  the  mountains,  to  fodder  and  harness 
his  steed.  Fire,  too,  was  awakened  thus  early 
to  put  the  vital  heat  in  him  and  get  him  off.  If 
the  enterprise  were  as  innocent  as  it  is  early ! 
If  the  snow  lies  deep,  they  strap  on  his  snow- 
shoes,  and  with  the  giant  plough  plough  a  fur 
row  from  the  mountains  to  the  seaboard,  in 
which  the  cars,  like  a  following  drill-barrow, 
sprinkle  all  the  restless  men  and  floating  mer 
chandise  in  the  country  for  seed.  All  day  the 
fire-steed  flies  over  the  country,  stopping  only 
that  his  master  may  rest,  and  I  am  awakened 
by  his  tramp  and  defiant  snort  at  midnight, 
when  in  some  remote  glen  in  the  woods  he  fronts 
the  elements  incased  in  ice  and  snow;  and  he 
will  reach  his  stall  only  with  the  morning  star, 
to  start  once  more  on  his  travels  without  rest  or 
slumber.  Or  perchance,  at  evening,  I  hear  him 
in  his  stable  blowing  off  the  superfluous  energy 
of  the  day,  that  he  may  calm  his  nerves  and 
cool  his  liver  and  brain  for  a  few  hours  of  iron 
slumber.  If  the  enterprise  were  as  heroic  and 
commanding  as  it  is  protracted  and  unwearied ! 
Far  through  unfrequented  woods  on  the  con 
fines  of  towns,  where  once  only  the  hunter  pene- 

SOUNDS  155 

trated  by  day,  in  the  darkest  night  dart  these 
bright  saloons  without  the  knowledge  of  their 
inhabitants ;  this  moment  stopping  at  some  bril 
liant  station-house  in  town  or  city,  where  a 
social  crowd  is  gathered,  the  next  in  the  Dismal 
Swamp,  scaring  the  owl  and  fox.  The  startings 
and  arrivals  of  the  cars  are  now  the  epochs  in  the 
village  day.  They  go  and  come  with  such  regu 
larity  and  precision,  and  their  whistle  can  be 
heard  so  far,  that  the  farmers  set  their  clocks  by 
them,  and  thus  one  well-conducted  institution 
regulates  a  whole  country.  Have  not  men  im 
proved  somewhat  in  punctuality  since  the  rail 
road  was  invented  ?  Do  they  not  talk  and  think 
faster  in  the  depot  than  they  did  in  the  stage- 
office  ?  There  is  something  electrifying  in  the 
atmosphere  of  the  former  place.  I  have  been 
astonished  at  the  miracles  it  has  wrought;  that 
some  of  my  neighbors,  who,  I  should  have 
prophesied,  once  for  all,  would  never  get  to 
Boston  by  so  prompt  a  conveyance,  are  on  hand 
when  the  bell  rings.  To  do  things  "railroad 
fashion"  is  now  the  by- word;  and  it  is  worth 
the  while  to  be  warned  so  often  and  so  sincerely 
by  any  power  to  get  off  its  track.  There  is  no 
stopping  to  read  the  riot  act,  no  firing  over  the 
heads  of  the  mob,  in  this  case.  We  have  con 
structed  a  fate,  an  Atropos,  that  never  turns 
aside.  (Let  that  be  the  name  of  your  engine.) 
Men  are  advertised  that  at  a  certain  hour  and 

156  WALDEN 

minute  these  bolts  will  be  shot  toward  par 
ticular  points  of  the  compass;  yet  it  interferes 
with  no  man's  business,  and  the  children  go  to 
school  on  the  other  track.  We  live  the  steadier 
for  it.  We  are  all  educated  thus  to  be  sons  of 
Tell.  The  air  is  full  of  invisible  bolts.  Every 
path  but  your  own  is  the  path  of  fate.  Keep 
on  your  own  track,  then. 

What  recommends  commerce  to  me  is  its 
enterprise  and  bravery.  It  does  not  clasp  its 
hands  and  pray  to  Jupiter.  I  see  these  men 
every  day  go  about  their  business  with  more  or 
less  courage  and  content,  doing  more  even  than 
they  suspect,  and  perchance  better  employed 
than  they  could  have  consciously  devised.  I 
am  less  affected  by  their  heroism  who  stood  up 
for  half  an  hour  in  the  front  line  at  Buena 
Vista,  than  by  the  steady  and  cheerful  valor  of 
the  men  who  inhabit  the  snow-plough  for  their 
winter  quarters ;  who  have  not  merely  the  three 
o'clock  in  the  morning  courage,  which  Bona 
parte  thought  was  the  rarest,  but  whose  courage 
does  not  go  to  rest  so  early,  who  go  to  sleep  only 
when  the  storm  sleeps  or  the  sinews  of  their  iron 
steed  are  frozen.  On  this  morning  of  the  Great 
Snow,  perchance,  which  is  still  raging  and  chill 
ing  men's  blood,  I  hear  the  muffled  tone  of  their 
engine  bell  from  out  the  fog  bank  of  their  chilled 
breath,  which  announces  that  the  cars  are  coming, 
without  long  delay,  notwithstanding  the  veto 

SOUNDS  157 

of  a  New  England  northeast  snow  storm,  and 
I  behold  the  ploughmen  covered  with  snow  and 
rime,  their  heads  peering  above  the  mould- 
board  which  is  turning  down  other  than  daisies 
and  the  nests  of  field-mice,  like  boulders  of  the 
Sierra  Nevada,  that  occupy  an  outside  place  in 
the  universe. 

Commerce  is  unexpectedly  confident  and 
serene,  alert,  adventurous,  and  unwearied.  It 
is  very  natural  in  its  methods  withal,  far  more 
so  than  many  fantastic  enterprises  and  senti 
mental  experiments,  and  hence  its  singular 
success.  I  am  refreshed  and  expanded  when 
the  freight  train  rattles  past  me,  and  I  smell 
the  stores  which  go  dispensing  their  odors  all 
the  way  from  Long  Wharf  to  Lake  Champlain, 
reminding  me  of  foreign  parts,  of  coral  reefs, 
and  Indian  oceans,  and  tropical  climes,  and  the 
extent  of  the  globe.  I  feel  more  like  a  citizen  of 
the  world  at  the  sight  of  the  palm-leaf  which 
will  cover  so  many  flaxen  New  England  heads 
the  next  summer,  the  Manilla  hemp  and  cocoa- 
nut  husks,  the  old  junk,  gunny  bags,  scrap  iron, 
and  rusty  nails.  This  carload  of  torn  sails  is 
more  legible  and  interesting  now  than  if  they 
should  be  wrought  into  paper  and  printed  books. 
Who  can  write  so  graphically  the  history  of  the 
storms  they  have  weathered  as  these  rents  have 
done  ?  They  are  proof-sheets  which  need  no 
correction.  Here  goes  lumber  from  the  Maine 

158  WALDEN 

woods,  which  did  not  go  out  to  sea  in  the  last 
freshet,  risen  four  dollars  on  the  thousand  be 
cause  of  what  did  go  out  or  was  split  up :  pine, 
spruce,  cedar,  —  first,  second,  third,  and  fourth 
qualities,  so  lately  all  of  one  quality,  to  wave 
over  the  bear,  and  moose,  and  caribou.  Next 
rolls  Thomaston  lime,  a  prime  lot,  which  will 
get  far  among  the  hills  before  it  gets  slacked. 
These  rags  in  bales,  of  all  hues  and  qualities, 
the  lowest  condition  to  which  cotton  and  linen 
descend,  the  final  result  of  dress,  —  of  patterns 
which  are  now  no  longer  cried  up,  unless  it  be 
in  Milwaukie,  as  those  splendid  articles,  Eng 
lish,  French,  or  American  prints,  ginghams, 
muslins,  &c.,  gathered  from  all  quarters  both 
of  fashion  and  poverty,  going  to  become  paper 
of  one  color  or  a  few  shades  only,  on  which  for 
sooth  will  be  written  tales  of  real  life,  high  and 
low,  and  founded  on  fact !  This  closed  car 
smells  of  salt  fish,  the  strong  New  England  and 
commercial  scent,  reminding  me  of  the  Grand 
Banks  and  the  fisheries.  Who  has  not  seen  a 
salt  fish,  thoroughly  cured  for  this  world,  so 
that  nothing  can  spoil  it,  and  putting  the  per 
severance  of  the  saints  to  the  blush  ?  with  which 
you  may  sweep  or  pave  the  streets,  and  split 
your  kindlings,  and  the  teamster  shelter  himself 
and  his  lading  against  sun,  wind,  and  rain  be 
hind  it,  —  and  the  trader,  as  a  Concord  trader 
once  did,  hang  it  up  by  his  door  for  a  sign  when 

SOUNDS  159 

he  commences  business,  until  at  last  his  oldest 
customer  cannot  tell  surely  whether  it  be  animal, 
vegetable,  or  mineral,  and  yet  it  shall  be  as  pure 
as  a  snowflake,  and  if  it  be  put  into  a  pot  and 
boiled,  will  come  out  an  excellent  dun  fish  for  a 
Saturday's  dinner.  Next  Spanish  hides,  with  the 
tails  still  preserving  their  twist  and  the  angle 
of  elevation  they  had  when  the  oxen  that  wore 
them  were  careering  over  the  pampas  of  the 
Spanish  main,  —  a  type  of  all  obstinacy,  and 
evincing  how  almost  hopeless  and  incurable 
are  all  constitutional  vices.  I  confess  that, 
practically  speaking,  when  I  have  learned  a 
man's  real  disposition,  I  have  no  hopes  of 
changing  it  for  the  better  or  worse  in  this  state 
of  existence.  As  the  Orientals  say,  "A  cur's 
tail  may  be  warmed,  and  pressed,  and  bound 
round  with  ligatures,  and  after  a  twelve  years' 
labor  bestowed  upon  it,  still  it  will  retain  its 
natural  form."  The  only  effectual  cure  for  such 
inveteracies  as  these  tails  exhibit  is  to  make 
glue  of  them,  which  I  believe  is  what  is  usually 
done  with  them,  and  then  they  will  stay  put  and 
stick.  Here  is  a  hogshead  of  molasses  or  of 
brandy  directed  to  John  Smith,  Cuttingsville, 
Vermont,  some  trader  among  the  Green  Moun 
tains,  who  imports  for  the  farmers  near  his  clear 
ing,  and  now  perchance  stands  over  his  bulk 
head  and  thinks  of  the  last  arrivals  on  the  coast, 
how  they  may  affect  the  price  for  him,  telling 

160  WALDEN 

his  customers  this  moment,  as  he  has  told  them 
twenty  times  before  this  morning,  that  he  ex 
pects  some  by  the  next  train  of  prime  quality. 
It  is  advertised  in  the  Cuttingsville  Times. 

While  these  things  go  up  other  things  come 
down.  Warned  by  the  whizzing  sound,  I  look 
up  from  my  book  and  see  some  tall  pine,  hewn 
on  far  northern  hills,  which  has  winged  its  way 
over  the  Green  Mountains  and  the  Connecticut, 
shot  like  an  arrow  through  the  township  within 
ten  minutes,  and  scarce  another  eye  beholds  it; 

"to  be  the  mast 
Of  some  great  ammiral." 

And  hark !  here  comes  the  cattle-train  bearing 
the  cattle  of  a  thousand  hills,  sheepcots,  stables, 
and  cow-yards  in  the  air,  drovers  with  their 
sticks,  and  shepherd  boys  in  the  midst  of  their 
flocks,  all  but  the  mountain  pastures,  whirled 
along  like  leaves  blown  from  the  mountains  by 
the  September  gales.  The  air  is  filled  with  the 
bleating  of  calves  and  sheep,  and  the  hustling  of 
oxen,  as  if  a  pastoral  valley  were  going  by.  When 
the  old  bell-wether  at  the  head  rattles  his  bell, 
the  mountains  do  indeed  skip  like  rams  and  the 
little  hills  like  lambs.  A  car-load  of  drovers,  too, 
in  the  midst,  on  a  level  with  their  droves  now, 
their  vocation  gone,  but  still  clinging  to  their 
useless  sticks  as  their  badge  of  office.  But  their 
dogs,  where  are  they  ?  It  is  a  stampede  to  them ; 

SOUNDS  161 

they  are  quite  thrown  out;  they  have  lost  the 
scent.  Methinks  I  hear  them  barking  behind 
the  Peterboro'  Hills,  or  panting  up  the  western 
slope  of  the  Green  Mountains.  They  will  not 
be  in  at  the  death.  Their  vocation,  too,  is  gone. 
Their  fidelity  and  sagacity  are  below  par  now. 
They  will  slink  back  to  their  kennels  in  dis 
grace,  or  perchance  run  wild  and  strike  a  league 
with  the  wolf  and  the  fox.  So  is  your  pastoral 
life  whirled  past  and  away.  But  the  bell  rings, 
and  I  must  get  off  the  track  and  let  the  cars  go 

What's  the  railroad  to  me  ? 

I  never  go  to  see 

Where  it  ends. 

It  fills  a  few  hollows, 

And  makes  banks  for  the  swallows, 

It  sets  the  sand  a-blowing, 

And  the  blackberries  a-growing, 

but  I  cross  it  like  a  cart-path  in  the  woods.  I 
will  not  have  my  eyes  put  out  and  my  ears 
spoiled  by  its  smoke  and  steam  and  hissing. 

Now  that  the  cars  are  gone  by  and  all  the 
restless  world  with  them,  and  the  fishes  in  the 
pond  no  longer  feel  their  rumbling,  I  am  more 
alone  than  ever.  For  the  rest  of  the  long  after 
noon,  perhaps,  my  meditations  are  interrupted 
only  by  the  faint  rattle  of  a  carriage  or  team 
along  the  distant  highway. 

Sometimes,  on  Sundays,  I  heard  the  bells,  the 


162  WALDEN 

Lincoln,  Acton,  Bedford,  or  Concord  bell,  when 
the  wind  was  favorable,  a  faint,  sweet,  and,  as 
it  were,  natural  melody,  worth  importing  into 
the  wilderness.  At  a  sufficient  distance  over 
the  woods  this  sound  acquires  a  certain  vibratory 
hum,  as  if  the  pine  needles  in  the  horizon  were 
the  strings  of  a  harp  which  it  swept.  All  sound 
heard  at  the  greatest  possible  distance  produces 
one  and  the  same  effect,  a  vibration  of  the  uni 
versal  lyre,  just  as  the  intervening  atmosphere 
makes  a  distant  ridge  of  earth  interesting  to 
our  eyes  by  the  azure  tint  it  imparts  to  it.  There 
came  to  me  in  this  case  a  melody  which  the  air 
had  strained,  and  which  had  conversed  with 
every  leaf  and  needle  of  the  wood,  that  portion 
of  the  sound  which  the  elements  had  taken  up 
and  modulated  and  echoed  from  vale  to  vale. 
The  echo  is,  to  some  extent,  an  original  sound, 
and  therein  is  the  magic  and  charm  of  it.  It  is 
not  merely  a  repetition  of  what  was  worth  re 
peating  in  the  bell,  but  partly  the  voice  of  the 
wood ;  the  same  trivial  words  and  notes  sung  by 
a  wood-nymph. 

At  evening,  the  distant  lowing  of  some  cow 
in  the  horizon  beyond  the  woods  sounded  sweet 
and  melodious,  and  at  first  I  would  mistake  it 
for  the  voices  of  certain  minstrels  by  wiiom  I 
was  sometimes  serenaded,  who  might  be  stray 
ing  over  hill  and  dale;  but  soon  I  was  not  un 
pleasantly  disappointed  when  it  was  prolonged 

SOUNDS  163 

into  the  cheap  and  natural  music  of  the  cow.  I 
do  not  mean  to  be  satirical,  but  to  express  my 
appreciation  of  those  youths'  singing,  when  I 
state  that  I  perceived  clearly  that  it  was  akin  to 
the  music  of  the  cow,  and  they  were  at  length  one 
articulation  of  Nature. 

Regularly  at  half -past  seven,  in  one  part  of 
the  summer,  after  the  evening  train  had  gone 
by,  the  whippoorwills  chanted  their  vespers  for 
half  an  hour,  sitting  on  a  stump  by  my  door, 
or  upon  the  ridge  pole  of  the  house.  They  would 
begin  to  sing  almost  with  as  much  precision  as 
a  clock,  within  five  minutes  of  a  particular  time, 
referred  to  the  setting  of  the  sun,  every  evening. 
I  had  a  rare  opportunity  to  become  acquainted 
with  their  habits.  Sometimes  I  heard  four  or 
five  at  once  in  different  parts  of  the  wood,  by 
accident  one  a  bar  behind  another,  and  so  near 
me  that  I  distinguished  not  only  the  cluck  after 
each  note,  but  often  that  singular  buzzing  sound 
like  a  fly  in  a  spider's  web,  only  proportionally 
louder.  Sometimes  one  would  circle  round  and 
round  me  in  the  woods  a  few  feet  distant  as  if 
tethered  by  a  string,  when  probably  I  was  near 
its  eggs.  They  sang  at  intervals  throughout 
the  night,  and  were  again  as  musical  as  ever 
just  before  and  about  dawn. 

When  other  birds  are  still  the  screech  owls 
take  up  the  strain,  like  mourning  women  their 
ancient  u-lu-lu.  Their  dismal  scream  is  truly 

164  WALDEN 

Ben  Jonsonian.  Wise  midnight  hags !  It  is  no 
honest  and  blunt  tu-whit  tu-who  of  the  poets, 
but,  without  jesting,  a  most  solemn  graveyard 
ditty,  the  mutual  consolations  of  suicide  lovers 
remembering  the  pangs  and  delights  of  supernal 
love  in  the  infernal  groves.  Yet  I  love  to  hear 
their  wailing,  their  doleful  responses,  trilled 
along  the  woodside;  reminding  me  sometimes 
of  music  and  singing  birds ;  as  if  it  were  the  dark 
and  tearful  side  of  music,  the  regrets  and  sighs 
that  would  fain  be  sung.  They  are  the  spirits, 
the  low  spirits  and  melancholy  forebodings,  of 
fallen  souls  that  once  in  human  shape  night- 
walked  the  earth  and  did  the  deeds  of  darkness, 
now  expiating  their  sins  with  their  wailing 
hymns  or  threnodies  in  the  scenery  of  their 
transgressions.  They  give  me  a  new  sense  of 
the  variety  and  capacity  of  that  nature  which  is 
our  common  dwelling.  Oh-o-o-o-o  that  I  never 
had  been  bor-r-r-n!  sighs  one  on  this  side  of  the 
pond,  and  circles  with  the  restlessness  of  de 
spair  to  some  new  perch  on  the  gray  oaks.  Then 
—  that  I  never  had  been  bor-r-r-r-n!  echoes 
another  on  the  farther  side  with  tremulous 
sincerity,  and  —  bor-r-r-r-n!  comes  faintly  from 
far  in  the  Lincoln  woods. 

I  was  also  serenaded  by  a  hooting  owl.  Near 
at  hand  you  could  fancy  it  the  most  melancholy 
sound  in  Nature,  as  if  she  meant  by  this  to  stereo 
type  and  make  permanent  in  her  choir  the  dying 

SOUNDS  165 

moans  of  a  human  being,  —  some  poor  weak 
relic  of  mortality  who  has  left  hope  behind,  and 
howls  like  an  animal,  yet  with  human  sobs,  on 
entering  the  dark  valley,  made  more  awful  by  a 
certain  gurgling  melodiousness,--!  find  my 
self  beginning  with  the  letters  gl  when  I  try  to 
imitate  it,  —  expressive  of  a  mind  which  has 
reached  the  gelatinous  mildewy  stage  in  the  mor 
tification  of  all  healthy  and  courageous  thought. 
It  reminded  me  of  ghouls  and  idiots  and  insane 
bowlings.  But  now  one  answers  from  far  woods  in 
a  strain  made  really  melodious  by  distance, — Hoo 
hoo  hoo  hoorer  hoo ;  and  indeed  for  the  most  part 
it  suggested  only  pleasing  associations,  whether 
heard  by  day  or  night,  summer  or  winter. 

I  rejoice  that  there  are  owls.  Let  them  do  the 
idiotic  and  maniacal  hooting  for  men.  It  is  a 
sound  admirably  suited  to  swamps  and  twilight 
woods  which  no  day  illustrates,  suggesting  a 
vast  and  undeveloped  nature  which  men  have  not 
recognized.  They  represent  the  stark  twilight 
and  unsatisfied  thoughts  which  all  have.  All  day 
the  sun  has  shone  on  the  surface  of  some  savage 
swamp,  where  the  single  spruce  stands  hung  with 
usnea  lichens,  and  small  hawks  circulate  above, 
and  the  chickadee  lisps  amid  the  evergreens,  and 
the  partridge  and  rabbit  skulk  beneath ;  but  now 
a  more  dismal  and  fitting  day  dawns,  and  a 
different  race  of  creatures  awakes  to  express  the 
meaning  of  Nature  there. 

166  WALDEN 

Late  in  the  evening  I  heard  the  distant  rum 
bling  of  wagons  over  bridges,  —  a  sound  heard 
farther  than  almost  any  other  at  night,  —  the 
baying  of  dogs,  and  sometimes  again  the  lowing 
of  some  disconsolate  cow  in  a  distant  barn-yard. 
In  the  meanwhile  all  the  shore  rang  with  the 
trump  of  bullfrogs,  the  sturdy  spirits  of  ancient 
wine-bibbers  and  wassailers,  still  unrepentant, 
trying  to  sing  a  catch  in  their  Stygian  lake,  —  if 
the  Walden  nymphs  will  pardon  the  comparison, 
for  though  there  are  almost  no  weeds,  there  are 
frogs  there,  —  who  would  fain  keep  up  the  hila 
rious  rules  of  their  old  festal  tables,  though  their 
voices  have  waxed  hoarse  and  solemnly  grave, 
mocking  at  mirth,  and  the  wine  has  lost  its  flavor, 
and  become  only  liquor  to  distend  their  paunches, 
and  sweet  intoxication  never  comes  to  drown  the 
memory  of  the  past,  but  mere  saturation  and 
waterloggedness  and  distention.  The  most  alder- 
manic,  with  his  chin  upon  a  heart-leaf,  which 
serves  for  a  napkin  to  his  drooling  chaps,  under 
this  northern  shore  quaffs  a  deep  draught  of  the 
once  scorned  water,  and  passes  round  the  cup 
with  the  ejaculation  tr-r-r-oonk,  tr-r-r-oonk,  tr-r-r- 
oonk!  and  straightway  comes  over  the  water 
from  some  distant  cove  the  same  password  re 
peated,  where  the  next  in  seniority  and  girth  has 
gulped  down  to  his  mark;  and  when  this  ob 
servance  has  made  the  circuit  of  the  shores,  then 
ejaculates  the  master  of  ceremonies,  with  satis- 

SOUNDS  167 

faction,  tr-r-r-oonk!  and  each  in  his  turn  re 
peats  the  same  down  to  the  least  distended,  leak 
iest,  and  flabbiest-paunched,  that  there  be  no 
mistake;  and  then  the  bowl  goes  round  again 
and  again,  until  the  sun  disperses  the  morning 
mist,  and  only  the  patriarch  is  not  under  the 
pond,  but  vainly  bellowing  troonk  from  time  to 
time,  and  pausing  for  a  reply. 

I  am  not  sure  that  I  ever  heard  the  sound  of 
cock-crowing  from  my  clearing,  and  I  thought 
that  it  might  be  worth  the  wrhile  to  keep  a  cockerel 
for  his  music  merely,  as  a  singing  bird.  The  note 
of  this  once  wild  Indian  pheasant  is  certainly  the 
most  remarkable  of  any  bird's,  and  if  they  could 
be  naturalized  without  being  domesticated,  it 
would  soon  become  the  most  famous  sound  in 
our  woods,  surpassing  the  clangor  of  the  goose 
and  the  hooting  of  the  owl;  and  then  imagine 
the  cackling  of  the  hens  to  fill  the  pauses  when 
their  lords'  clarions  rested !  No  wonder  that 
man  added  this  bird  to  his  tame  stock,  --to  say 
nothing  of  the  eggs  and  drumsticks.  To  walk  in 
a  winter  morning  in  a  wood  where  these  birds 
abounded,  their  native  woods,  and  hear  the  wild 
cockerels  crow  on  the  trees,  clear  and  shrill  for 
miles  over  the  resounding  earth,  drowning  the 
feebler  notes  of  other  birds,  —  think  of  it!  It 
would  put  nations  on  the  alert.  Who  would  not 
be  early  to  rise,  and  rise  earlier  and  earlier  every 
successive  day  of  his  life,  till  he  became  unspeak- 

168  WALDEN 

ably  healthy,  wealthy,  and  wise?  This  foreign 
bird's  note  is  celebrated  by  the  poets  of  all  coun 
tries  along  with  the  notes  of  their  native  song 
sters.  All  climates  agree  with  brave  Chanticleer. 
He  is  more  indigenous  even  than  the  natives. 
His  health  is  ever  good,  his  lungs  are  sound,  his 
spirits  never  flag.  Even  the  sailor  on  the  Atlantic 
and  Pacific  is  awakened  by  his  voice;  but  its 
shrill  sound  never  roused  me  from  my  slumbers. 
I  kept  neither  dog,  cat,  cow,  pig,  nor  hens,  so 
that  you  would  have  said  there  was  a  deficiency 
of  domestic  sounds;  neither  the  churn,  nor  the 
spinning-wheel,  nor  even  the  singing  of  the  kettle, 
nor  the  hissing  of  the  urn,  nor  children  crying, 
to  comfort  one.  An  old-fashioned  man  would 
have  lost  his  senses  or  died  of  ennui  before  this. 
Not  even  rats  in  the  wall,  for  they  were  starved 
out,  or  rather  were  never  baited  in,  —  only 
squirrels  on  the  roof  and  under  the  floor,  a  whip- 
poorwill  on  the  ridge  pole,  a  blue- jay  screaming 
beneath  the  window,  a  hare  or  woodchuck  under 
the  house,  a  screech-owl  or  a  cat-owl  behind  it,  a 
flock  of  wild  geese  or  a  laughing  loon  on  the  pond, 
and  a  fox  to  bark  in  the  night.  Not  even  a  lark 
or  an  oriole,  those  mild  plantation  birds,  ever 
visited  my  clearing.  No  cockerels  to  crow  nor 
hens  to  cackle  in  the  yard.  No  yard  !  but  un- 
fenced  Nature  reaching  up  to  your  very  sills. 
A  young  forest  growing  up  under  your  windows, 
and  wild  sumachs  and  blackberry  vines  breaking 

SOUNDS  169 

through  into  your  cellar;  sturdy  pitch-pines 
rubbing  and  creaking  against  the  shingles  for 
want  of  room,  their  roots  reaching  quite  under 
the  house.  Instead  of  a  scuttle  or  a  blind  blown 
off  in  the  gale,  —  a  pine  tree  snapped  off  or  torn 
up  by  the  roots  behind  your  house  for  fuel.  In 
stead  of  no  path  to  the  front-yard  gate  in  the 
Great  Snow,  —  no  gate  —  no  front-yard,  —  and 
no  path  to  the  civilized  world ! 


THIS  is  a  delicious  evening,  when  the  whole 
body  is  one  sense,  and  imbibes  delight 
through  every  pore.  I  go  and  come  with 
a  strange  liberty  in  Nature,  a  part  of  herself.  As 
I  walk  along  the  stony  shore  of  the  pond  in  my 
shirt  sleeves,  though  it  is  cool  as  well  as  cloudy 
and  windy,  and  I  see  nothing  special  to  attract 
me,  all  the  elements  are  unusually  congenial  to 
me.  The  bullfrogs  trump  to  usher  in  the  night, 
and  the  note  of  the  whippoorwill  is  borne  on  the 
rippling  wind  from  over  the  water.  Sympathy 
with  the  fluttering  alder  and  poplar  leaves  almost 
takes  away  my  breath;  yet,  like  the  lake,  my 
serenity  is  rippled  but  not  ruffled.  These  small 
waves  raised  by  the  evening  wind  are  as  remote 
from  storm  as  the  smooth  reflecting  surface. 
Though  it  is  now  dark,  the  wind  still  blows  and 
roars  in  the  wood,  the  waves  still  dash,  and  some 
creatures  lull  the  rest  with  their  notes.  The  re 
pose  is  never  complete.  The  wildest  animals  do 
not  repose,  but  seek  their  prey  now ;  the  fox,  and 
skunk,  and  rabbit,  now  roam  the  fields  and 
woods  without  fear.  They  are  Nature's  watch- 


men,  —  links  which  connect  the  days  of  animated 

When  I  return  to  my  house  I  find  that  visitors 
have  been  there  and  left  their  cards,  either  a 
bunch  of  flowers,  or  a  wreath  of  evergreen,  or  a 
name  in  pencil  on  a  yellow  walnut  leaf  or  a  chip. 
They  who  come  rarely  to  the  woods  take  some 
little  piece  of  the  forest  into  their  hands  to  play 
with  by  the  way,  which  they  leave,  either  inten 
tionally  or  accidentally.  One  has  peeled  a  wil 
low  w^and,  woven  it  into  a  ring,  and  dropped  it 
on  my  table.  I  could  always  tell  if  visitors  had 
called  in  my  absence,  either  by  the  bended  twigs 
or  grass,  or  the  print  of  their  shoes,  and  generally 
of  what  sex  or  age  or  quality  they  were  by  some 
slight  trace  left,  as  a  flower  dropped,  or  a  bunch 
of  grass  plucked  and  thrown  away,  even  as  far 
off  as  the  railroad,  half  a  mile  distant,  or  by  the 
lingering  odor  of  a  cigar  or  pipe.  Nay,  I  was 
frequently  notified  of  the  passage  of  a  traveller 
along  the  highway  sixty  rods  off  by  the  scent  of 
his  pipe. 

There  is  commonly  sufficient  space  about  us. 
Our  horizon  is  never  quite  at  our  elbows.  The 
thick  wood  is  not  just  at  our  door,  nor  the  pond, 
but  somewhat  is  always  clearing,  familiar  and 
worn  by  us,  appropriated  and  fenced  in  some 
way,  and  reclaimed  from  Nature.  For  what  rea 
son  have  I  this  vast  range  and  circuit,  some 
square  miles  of  unfrequented  forest,  for  my 

172  WALDEN 

privacy,  abandoned  to  me  by  men  ?  My  nearest 
neighbor  is  a  mile  distant,  and  no  house  is  visible 
from  any  place  but  the  hill  tops  within  half  a 
mile  of  my  own.  I  have  my  horizon  bounded  by 
woods  all  to  myself;  a  distant  view  of  the  rail 
road  where  it  touches  the  pond  on  the  one  hand, 
and  of  the  fence  which  skirts  the  woodland  road 
on  the  other.  But  for  the  most  part  it  is  as  soli 
tary  where  I  live  as  on  the  prairies.  It  is  as  much 
Asia  or  Africa  as  New  England.  I  have,  as  it 
were,  my  own  sun  and  moon  and  stars,  and  a 
little  world  all  to  myself.  At  night  there  was 
never  a  traveller  passed  my  house,  or  knocked  at 
my  door,  more  than  if  I  were  the  first  or  last 
man;  unless  it  were  in  the  spring,  when  at  long 
intervals  some  came  from  the  village  to  fish  for 
pouts, --they  plainly  fished  much  more  in  the 
Walden  Pond  of  their  own  natures,  and  baited 
their  hooks  with  darkness,  —  but  they  soon  re 
treated,  usually  with  light  baskets,  and  left  "the 
world  to  darkness  and  to  me,"  and  the  black 
kernel  of  the  night  wTas  never  profaned  by  any 
human  neighborhood.  I  believe  that  men  are 
generally  still  a  little  afraid  of  the  dark,  though 
the  witches  are  all  hung,  and  Christianity  and 
candles  have  been  introduced. 

Yet  I  experienced  sometimes  that  the  most 
sweet  and  tender,  the  most  innocent  and  encour 
aging  society  may  be  found  in  any  natural  ob 
ject,  even  for  the  poor  misanthrope  and  most 


melancholy  man.  There  can  be  no  very  black 
melancholy  to  him  who  lives  in  the  midst  of 
Nature  and  has  his  senses  still.  There  was  never 
yet  such  a  storm  but  it  was  ^Eolian  music  to  a 
healthy  and  innocent  ear.  Nothing  can  rightly 
compel  a  simple  and  brave  man  to  a  vulgar  sad 
ness.  While  I  enjoy  the  friendship  of  the  seasons 
I  trust  that  nothing  can  make  life  a  burden  to 
me.  The  gentle  rain  which  waters  my  beans  and 
keeps  me  in  the  house  to-day  is  not  drear  and 
melancholy,  but  good  for  me,  too.  Though  it 
prevents  my  hoeing  them,  it  is  of  far  more  wrorth 
than  my  hoeing.  If  it  should  continue  so  long  as 
to  cause  the  seeds  to  rot  in  the  ground  and  destroy 
the  potatoes  in  the  low  lands, it  would  still  be  good 
for  the  grass  on  the  uplands,  and,  being  good  for 
the  grass,  it  would  be  good  for  me.  Sometimes, 
when  I  compare  myself  with  other  men,  it  seems 
as  if  I  were  more  favored  by  the  gods  than  they, 
beyond  any  deserts  that  I  am  conscious  of ;  as  if 
I  had  a  warrant  and  surety  at  their  hands  which 
my  fellows  have  not,  and  were  especially  guided 
and  guarded.  I  do  not  flatter  myself,  but  if  it  be 
possible  they  flatter  me.  I  have  never  felt  lone 
some,  or  in  the  least  oppressed  by  a  sense  of  soli 
tude,  but  once,  and  that  was  a  few  weeks  after  I 
came  to  the  woods,  when,  for  an  hour,  I  doubted 
if  the  near  neighborhood  of  man  was  not  essen 
tial  to  a  serene  and  healthy  life.  To  be  alone  was 
something  unpleasant.  But  I  was  at  the  same 

174  WALDEN 

time  conscious  of  a  slight  insanity  in  my  mood, 
and  seemed  to  foresee  my  recovery.  In  the  midst 
of  a  gentle  rain  while  these  thoughts  prevailed,  I 
was  suddenly  sensible  of  such  sweet  and  benefi 
cent  society  in  Nature,  in  the  very  pattering  of 
the  drops,  and  in  every  sound  and  sight  around 
my  house,  an  infinite  and  unaccountable  friendli 
ness  all  at  once  like  an  atmosphere  sustaining  me, 
as  made  the  fancied  advantages  of  human  neigh 
borhood  insignificant,  and  I  have  never  thought 
of  them  since.  Every  little  pine  needle  expanded 
and  swelled  with  sympathy  and  befriended  me. 
I  was  so  distinctly  made  aware  of  the  presence  of 
something  kindred  to  me,  even  in  scenes  which 
we  are  accustomed  to  call  wild  and  dreary,  and 
also  that  the  nearest  of  blood  to  me  and  humanest 
was  not  a  person  nor  a  villager,  that  I  thought  no 
place  could  ever  be  strange  to  me  again.  — 

" Mourning  untimely  consumes  the  sad; 
Few  are  their  days  in  the  land  of  the  living, 
Beautiful  daughter  of  Toscar." 

Some  of  my  pleasantest  hours  were  during  the 
long  rain  storms  in  the  spring  or  fall,  which  con 
fined  me  to  the  house  for  the  afternoon  as  well  as 
the  forenoon,  soothed  by  their  ceaseless  roar  and 
pelting;  when  an  early  twilight  ushered  in  a 
long  evening  in  which  many  thoughts  had  time 
to  take  root  and  unfold  themselves.  In  those 
driving  northeast  rains  which  tried  the  village 


houses  so,  when  the  maids  stood  ready  with  mop 
and  pail  in  front  entries  to  keep  the  deluge  out, 
I  sat  behind  my  door  in  my  little  house,  which 
was  all  entry,  and  thoroughly  enjoyed  its  protec 
tion.  In  one  heavy  thunder  shower  the  lightning 
struck  a  large  pitch-pine  across  the  pond,  making 
a  very  conspicuous  and  perfectly  regular  spiral 
groove  from  top  to  bottom,  an  inch  or  more  deep, 
and  four  or  five  inches  wide,  as  you  would  groove 
a  walking-stick.  I  passed  it  again  the  other  day, 
and  w^as  struck  with  awe  on  looking  up  and  be 
holding  that  mark,  now  more  distinct  than  ever, 
where  a  terrific  and  resistless  bolt  came  down 
out  of  the  harmless  sky  eight  years  ago.  Men 
frequently  say  to  me,  "I  should  think  you  would 
feel  lonesome  down  there,  and  want  to  be  nearer 
to  folks,  rainy  and  snowy  days  and  nights  espe 
cially."  I  am  tempted  to  reply  to  such,  —  This 
whole  earth  which  we  inhabit  is  but  a  point  in 
space.  How  far  apart,  think  you,  dwell  the  two 
most  distant  inhabitants  of  yonder  star,  the 
breadth  of  whose  disk  cannot  be  appreciated  by 
our  instruments  ?  Why  should  I  feel  lonely  ?  is 
not  our  planet  in  the  Milky  Way  ?  This  which 
you  put  seems  to  me  not  to  be  the  most  important 
question.  What  sort  of  space  is  that  which  sepa 
rates  a  man  from  his  fellows  and  makes  him  soli 
tary  ?  I  have  found  that  no  exertion  of  the  legs 
can  bring  two  minds  much  nearer  to  one  another. 
What  do  we  want  most  to  dwell  near  to  ?  Not  to 

176  WALDEN 

many  men  surely,  the  depot,  the  post-office,  the 
bar-room,  the  meeting-house,  the  school-house, 
the  grocery,  Beacon  Hill,  or  the  Five  Points, 
where  men  most  congregate,  but  to  the  perennial 
source  of  our  life,  whence  in  all  our  experience 
we  have  found  that  to  issue,  as  the  willow  stands 
near  the  water  and  sends  out  its  roots  in  that 
direction.  This  will  vary  with  different  natures, 
but  this  is  the  place  where  a  wise  man  will  dig 
his  cellar.  ...  I  one  evening  overtook  one  of 
my  townsmen,  who  has  accumulated  what  is 
called  "a  handsome  property,"  —  though  I 
never  got  a  fair  view  of  it,  —  on  the  Walden  road, 
driving  a  pair  of  cattle  to  market,  who  inquired 
of  me  how  I  could  bring  my  mind  to  give  up  so 
many  of  the  comforts  of  life.  I  answered  that  I 
was  very  sure  I  liked  it  passably  well ;  I  was  not 
joking.  And  so  I  went  home  to  my  bed,  and  left 
him  to  pick  his  way  through  the  darkness  and 
the  mud  to  Brighton,  —  or  Bright-town,  —  which 
place  he  would  reach  sometime  in  the  morning. 
Any  prospect  of  awakening  or  coming  to  life 
to  a  dead  man  makes  indifferent  all  times  and 
places.  The  place  where  that  may  occur  is 
always  the  same,  and  indescribably  pleasant  to 
all  our  senses.  For  the  most  part  we  allow  only 
outlying  and  transient  circumstances  to  make  our 
occasions.  They  are,  in  fact,  the  cause  of  our 
distraction.  Nearest  to  all  things  is  that  power 
which  fashions  their  being.  Next  to  us  the  grand- 

The  cartpath  near  Tboreau  s  hut 


est  laws  are  continually  being  executed.  Next  to 
us  is  not  the  workman  whom  we  have  hired,  with 
whom  we  love  so  well  to  talk,  but  the  workman 
whose  work  we  are. 

"How  vast  and  profound  is  the  influence  of 
the  subtile  powers  of  Heaven  and  of  Earth !" 

"We  seek  to  perceive  them,  and  we  do  not  see 
them ;  we  seek  to  hear  them,  and  we  do  not  hear 
them;  identified  with  the  substance  of  things, 
they  cannot  be  separated  from  them." 

"They  cause  that  in  all  the  universe  men 
purify  and  sanctify  their  hearts,  and  clothe  them 
selves  in  their  holiday  garments  to  offer  sacrifices 
and  oblations  to  their  ancestors.  It  is  an  ocean 
of  subtile  intelligences.  They  are  everywhere, 
above  us,  on  our  left,  on  our  right ;  they  environ 
us  on  all  sides." 

We  are  the  subjects  of  an  experiment  which  is 
not  a  little  interesting  to  me.  Can  we  not  do 
without  the  society  of  our  gossips  a  little  while 
under  these  circumstances,  —  have  our  own 
thoughts  to  cheer  us  ?  Confucius  says  truly, 
"Virtue  does  not  remain  as  an  abandoned 
orphan;  it  must  of  necessity  have  neighbors." 

With  thinking  we  may  be  beside  ourselves  in 
a  sane  sense.  By  a  conscious  effort  of  the  mind 
we  can  stand  aloof  from  actions  and  their  con 
sequences;  and  all  things,  good  and  bad,  go  by 
us  like  a  torrent.  We  are  not  wholly  involved  in 
Nature.  I  may  be  either  the  driftwood  in  the 

178  WALDEN 

stream,  or  Indra  in  the  sky  looking  down  on  it. 
I  may  be  affected  by  a  theatrical  exhibition;  on 
the  other  hand,  I  may  not  be  affected  by  an  act 
ual  event  which  appears  to  concern  me  much 
more.  I  only  know  myself  as  a  human  entity; 
the  scene,  so  to  speak,  of  thoughts  and  affections ; 
and  am  sensible  of  a  certain  doubleness  by  which 
I  can  stand  as  remote  from  myself  as  from  an 
other.  However  intense  my  experience,  I  am 
conscious  of  the  presence  of  and  criticism  of  a 
part  of  me,  which,  as  it  were,  is  not  a  part  of 
me,  but  spectator,  sharing  no  experience,  but 
taking  note  of  it;  and  that  is  no  more  I  than  it 
is  you.  When  the  play,  it  may  be  the  tragedy,  of 
life  is  over,  the  spectator  goes  his  way.  It  \vas 
a  kind  of  fiction,  a  work  of  the  imagination  only, 
so  far  as  he  was  concerned.  This  doubleness 
may  easily  make  us  poor  neighbors  and  friends 

I  find  it  wholesome  to  be  alone  the  greater 
part  of  the  time.  To  be  in  company,  even  with 
the  best,  is  soon  wearisome  and  dissipating.  I 
love  to  be  alone.  I  never  found  the  companion 
that  was  so  companionable  as  solitude.  We  are 
for  the  most  part  more  lonely  when  we  go  abroad 
among  men  than  when  we  stay  in  our  chambers. 
A  man  thinking  or  working  is  always  alone,  let 
him  be  where  he  will.  Solitude  is  not  measured 
by  the  miles  of  space  that  intervene  between  a 
man  and  his  fellows.  The  really  diligent  stu- 


dent  in  one  of  the  crowded  hives  of  Cambridge 
College  is  as  solitary  as  a  dervish  in  the  desert. 
The  farmer  can  work  alone  in  the  field  or  the 
woods  all  day,  hoeing  or  chopping,  and  not  feel 
lonesome,  because  he  is  employed ;  but  when  he 
comes  home  at  night  he  cannot  sit  down  in  a 
room  alone,  at  the  mercy  of  his  thoughts,  but 
must  be  where  he  can  "see  the  folks,"  and 
recreate,  and  as  he  thinks  remunerate,  himself 
for  his  day's  solitude;  and  hence  he  wonders 
how  the  student  can  sit  alone  in  the  house  all 
night  and  most  of  the  day  without  ennui  and 
"the  blues";  but  he  does  not  realize  that  the 
student,  though  in  the  house,  is  still  at  work  in 
his  field,  and  chopping  in  his  woods,  as  the 
farmer  in  his,  and  in  turn  seeks  the  same  recre 
ation  and  society  that  the  latter  does,  though  it 
may  be  a  more  condensed  form  of  it. 

Society  is  commonly  too  cheap.  We  meet  at 
very  short  intervals,  not  having  had  time  to  ac 
quire  any  new  value  for  each  other.  We  meet 
at  meals  three  times  a  day,  and  give  each  other 
a  new  taste  of  that  old  musty  cheese  that  we  are. 
We  have  to  agree  on  a  certain  set  of  rules,  called 
etiquette  and  politeness,  to  make  this  frequent 
meeting  tolerable  and  that  we  need  not  come  to 
open  war.  We  meet  at  the  post-office,  and  at 
the  sociable,  and  about  the  fireside  every  night; 
we  live  thick  and  are  in  each  other's  way,  and 
stumble  over  one  another,  and  I  think  that  we 

180  WALDEN 

thus  lose  some  respect  for  one  another.  Cer 
tainly  less  frequency  would  suffice  for  all  im 
portant  and  hearty  communications.  Consider 
the  girls  in  a  factory,  —  never  alone,  hardly  in 
their  dreams.  It  would  be  better  if  there  were 
but  one  inhabitant  to  a  square  mile,  as  where  I 
live.  The  value  of  a  man  is  not  in  his  skin,  that 
we  should  touch  him. 

I  have  heard  of  a  man  lost  in  the  woods  and 
dying  of  famine  and  exhaustion  at  the  foot  of  a 
tree,  whose  loneliness  was  relieved  by  the  gro 
tesque  visions  with  which,  owing  to  bodily 
weakness,  his  diseased  imagination  surrounded 
him,  and  which  he  believed  to  be  real.  So  also, 
owing  to  bodily  and  mental  health  and  strength, 
we  may  be  continually  cheered  by  a  like  but  more 
normal  and  natural  society,  and  come  to  know 
that  we  are  never  alone. 

I  have  a  great  deal  of  company  in  my  house ; 
especially  in  the  morning,  when  nobody  calls. 
Let  me  suggest  a  few  comparisons,  that  some 
one  may  convey  an  idea  of  my  situation.  I  am 
no  more  lonely  than  the  loon  in  the  pond  that 
laughs  so  loud,  or  than  Walden  Pond  itself. 
What  company  has  that  lonely  lake,  I  pray  ? 
And  yet  it  has  not  the  blue  devils,  but  the  blue 
angels  in  it,  in  the  azure  tint  of  its  waters.  The 
sun  is  alone,  except  in  thick  weather,  when  there 
sometimes  appear  to  be  two,  but  one  is  a  mock 
sun.  God  is  alone,  —  but  the  devil,  he  is  far 


from  being  alone;  he  sees  a  great  deal  of  com 
pany  ;  he  is  legion.  I  am  no  more  lonely  than  a 
single  mullein  or  dandelion  in  a  pasture,  or  a 
bean  leaf,  or  sorrel,  or  a  horse-fly,  or  a  humble- 
bee.  I  am  no  more  lonely  than  the  Mill  Brook, 
or  a  weathercock,  or  the  north  star,  or  the  south 
wind,  or  an  April  shower,  or  a  January  thaw,  or 
the  first  spider  in  a  new  house. 

I  have  occasional  visits  in  the  long  winter 
evenings,  when  the  snow  falls  fast  and  the  wind 
howls  in  the  wood,  from  an  old  settler  and  origi 
nal  proprietor,  who  is  reported  to  have  dug 
Walden  Pond,  and  stoned  it,  and  fringed  it  with 
pine  woods ;  who  tells  me  stories  of  old  time  and 
of  new  eternity;  and  between  us  we  manage  to 
pass  a  cheerful  evening  with  social  mirth  and 
pleasant  views  of  things,  even  without  apples  or 
cider,  —  a  most  wise  and  humorous  friend, 
whom  I  love  much,  who  keeps  himself  more 
secret  than  ever  did  Goffe  or  Whalley;  and 
though  he  is  thought  to  be  dead,  none  can  show- 
where  he  is  buried.  An  elderly  dame,  too,  dwells 
in  my  neighborhood,  invisible  to  most  persons, 
in  whose  odorous  herb  garden  I  love  to  stroll 
sometimes,  gathering  simples  and  listening  to 
her  fables;  for  she  has  a  genius  of  unequalled 
fertility,  and  her  memory  runs  back  farther  than 
mythology,  and  she  can  tell  me  the  original 
of  every  fable,  and  on  what  fact  every  one  is 
founded,  for  the  incidents  occurred  when  she 

182  WALDEN 

was  young.  A  ruddy  and  lusty  old  dame,  who 
delights  in  all  weathers  and  seasons,  and  is  likely 
to  outlive  all  her  children  yet. 

The  indescribable  innocence  and  beneficence 
of  Nature,  —  of  sun  and  wind  and  rain,  of  sum 
mer  and  winter,  —  such  health,  such  cheer,  they 
afford  forever !  and  such  sympathy  have  they 
ever  with  our  race,  that  all  Nature  would  be 
affected,  and  the  sun's  brightness  fade,  and  the 
winds  would  sigh  humanely,  and  the  clouds  rain 
tears,  and  the  woods  shed  their  leaves  and  put 
on  mourning  in  midsummer,  if  any  man  should 
ever  for  a  just  cause  grieve.  Shall  I  not  have 
intelligence  with  the  earth  ?  Am  I  not  partly 
leaves  and  vegetable  mould  myself? 

What  is  the  pill  which  will  keep  us  well, 
serene,  contented  ?  Not  my  or  thy  great-grand 
father's,  but  our  great-grandmother  Nature's 
universal,  vegetable,  botanic  medicines,  by  which 
she  has  kept  herself  young  always,  outlived  so 
many  old  Parrs  in  her  day,  and  fed  her  health 
with  their  decaying  fatness.  For  my  panacea, 
instead  of  one  of  those  quack  vials  of  a  mixture 
dipped  from  Acheron  and  the  Dead  Sea,  which 
come  out  of  those  long  shallow  black-schooner- 
looking  wagons  which  we  sometimes  see  made 
to  carry  bottles,  let  me  have  a  draught  of  undi 
luted  morning  air.  Morning  air !  If  men  will 
not  drink  of  this  at  the  fountain-head  of  the  day, 
why,  then,  we  must  even  bottle  up  some  and  sell 


it  in  the  shops,  for  the  benefit  of  those  who  have 
lost  their  subscription  ticket  to  morning  time  in 
this  world.  But  remember,  it  will  not  keep  quite 
till  noonday  even  in  the  coolest  cellar,  but  drive 
out  the  stopples  long  ere  that  and  follow  west 
ward  the  steps  of  Aurora.  I  am  no  worshipper 
of  Hygeia,  who  was  the  daughter  of  that  old 
herb-doctor  ^Esculapius,  and  who  is  represented 
on  monuments  holding  a  serpent  in  one  hand, 
and  in  the  other  a  cup  out  of  which  the  serpent 
sometimes  drinks;  but  rather  of  Hebe,  cup 
bearer  to  Jupiter,  who  was  the  daughter  of  Juno 
and  wild  lettuce,  and  who  had  the  power  of  re 
storing  gods  and  men  to  the  vigor  of  youth.  She 
was  probably  the  only  thoroughly  sound-con 
ditioned,  healthy,  and  robust  young  lady  that 
ever  walked  the  globe,  and  wherever  she  came 
it  was  spring. 



I  THINK  that  I  love  society  as  much  as  most, 
and  am  ready  enough  to  fasten  myself  like 
a    bloodsucker    for    the    time    to    any   full- 
blooded  man  that  comes  in  my  way.    I  am  natu 
rally  no  hermit,  but  might  possibly  sit  out  the 
sturdiest    frequenter    of    the    bar-room,    if    my 
business  called  me  thither. 

I  had  three  chairs  in  my  house:  one  for  soli 
tude,  two  for  friendship,  three  for  society.  When 
visitors  came  in  larger  and  unexpected  numbers, 
there  was  but  the  third  chair  for  them  all,  but 
they  generally  economized  the  room  by  stand 
ing  up.  It  is  surprising  how  many  great  men  and 
women  a  small  house  will  contain.  I  have  had 
twenty-five  or  thirty  souls,  with  their  bodies,  at 
once  under  my  roof,  and  yet  we  often  parted 
without  being  aware  that  we  had  come  very  near 
to  one  another.  Many  of  our  houses,  both  pub 
lic  and  private,  with  their  almost  innumerable 
apartments,  their  huge  halls  and  their  cellars 
for  the  storage  of  wines  and  other  munitions  of 
peace,  appear  to  me  extravagantly  large  for  their 
inhabitants.  They  are  so  vast  and  magnificent 


that  the  latter  seem  to  be  only  vermin  which  in 
fest  them.  I  am  surprised  when  the  herald 
blows  his  summons  before  some  Tremont  or 
Astor  or  Middlesex  House,  to  see  come  creeping 
out  over  the  piazza  for  all  inhabitants  a  ridicu 
lous  mouse,  which  soon  again  slinks  into  some 
hole  in  the  pavement. 

One  inconvenience  I  sometimes  experienced 
in  so  small  a  house,  the  difficulty  of  getting  to  a 
sufficient  distance  from  my  guest  when  we  be 
gan  to  utter  the  big  thoughts  in  big  words.  You 
want  room  for  your  thoughts  to  get  into  sailing 
trim  and  run  a  course  or  two  before  they  make 
their  port.  The  bullet  of  your  thought  must 
have  overcome  its  lateral  and  ricochet  motion 
and  fallen  into  its  last  and  steady  course  before 
it  reaches  the  ear  of  the  hearer,  else  it  may  plough 
out  again  through  the  side  of  his  head.  Also, 
our  sentences  wanted  room  to  unfold  and  form 
their  columns  in  the  interval.  Individuals,  like 
nations,  must  have  suitable  broad  and  natural 
boundaries,  even  a  considerable  neutral  ground, 
between  them.  I  have  found  it  a  singular  lux 
ury  to  talk  across  the  pond  to  a  companion  on 
the  opposite  side.  In  my  house  we  were  so  near 
that  we  could  not  begin  to  hear,  —  we  could  not 
speak  low  enough  to  be  heard;  as  when  you 
throw  two  stones  into  calm  water  so  near  that 
they  break  each  other's  undulations.  If  we  are 
merely  loquacious  and  loud  talkers,  then  we 

186  WALDEN 

can  afford  to  stand  very  near  together,  cheek  by 
jowl,  and  feel  each  other's  breath;  but  if  we 
speak  reservedly  and  thoughtfully,  we  want  to 
be  farther  apart,  that  all  animal  heat  and  mois 
ture  may  have  a  chance  to  evaporate.  If  we 
would  enjoy  the  most  intimate  society  with  that 
in  each  of  us  which  is  without,  or  above,  being 
spoken  to,  we  must  not  only  be  silent,  but  com 
monly  so  far  apart  bodily  that  we  cannot 
possibly  hear  each  other's  voice  in  any  case. 
Referred  to  this  standard,  speech  is  for  the 
convenience  of  those  who  are  hard  of  hear 
ing;  but  there  are  many  fine  things  which  we 
cannot  say  if  we  have  to  shout.  As  the  con 
versation  began  to  assume  a  loftier  and  grander 
tone,  we  gradually  shoved  our  chairs  farther 
apart  till  they  touched  the  wall  in  opposite 
corners,  and  then  commonly  there  was  not  room 

My  "best"  room,  however,  my  withdrawing 
room,  always  ready  for  company,  on  whose 
carpet  the  sun  rarely  fell,  was  the  pine  wood 
behind  my  house.  Thither  in  summer  days, 
when  distinguished  guests  came,  I  took  them, 
and  a  priceless  domestic  swept  the  floor  and 
dusted  the  furniture  and  kept  the  things  in 

If  one  guest  came  he  sometimes  partook  of 
my  frugal  meal  and  it  was  no  interruption  to 
conversation  to  be  stirring  a  hasty-pudding,  or 


watching  the  rising  and  maturing  of  a  loaf  of 
bread  in  the  ashes,  in  the  meanwhile.  But  if 
twenty  came  and  sat  in  my  house,  there  was 
nothing  said  about  dinner,  though  there  might 
be  bread  enough  for  two,  more  than  if  eating 
were  a  forsaken  habit;  but  we  naturally  prac 
tised  abstinence;  and  this  was  never  felt  to  be 
an  offence  against  hospitality,  but  the  most 
proper  and  considerate  course.  The  waste  and 
decay  of  physical  life,  which  so  often  needs  re 
pair,  seemed  miraculously  retarded  in  such  a 
case,  and  the  vital  vigor  stood  its  ground.  I 
could  entertain  thus  a  thousand  as  well  as 
twenty ;  and  if  any  ever  went  away  disappointed 
or  hungry  from  my  house  when  they  found  me 
at  home,  they  may  depend  upon  it  that  I  sym 
pathized  with  them  at  least.  So  easy  is  it,  though 
many  housekeepers  doubt  it,  to  establish  new 
and  better  customs  in  the  place  of  the  old.  You 
need  not  rest  your  reputation  on  the  dinners  you 
give.  For  my  own  part,  I  was  never  so  effectu 
ally  deterred  from  frequenting  a  man's  house, 
by  any  kind  of  Cerberus  whatever,  as  by  the 
parade  one  made  about  dining  me,  which  I  took 
to  be  a  very  polite  and  roundabout  hint  never  to 
trouble  him  so  again.  I  think  I  shall  never  re 
visit  those  scenes.  I  should  be  proud  to  have  for 
the  motto  of  my  cabin  those  lines  of  Spenser 
which  one  of  my  visitors  inscribed  on  a  yellow 
walnut  leaf  for  a  card :  — 

188  WALDEN 

"Arrived  there,  the  little  house  they  fill, 

Ne  looke  for  entertainment  where  none  was; 
Rest  is  their  feast,  and  all  things  at  their  will: 
The  noblest  mind  the  best  contentment  has." 

When  Winslow,  afterward  governor  of  the 
Plymouth  Colony,  went  with  a  companion  on  a 
visit  of  ceremony  to  Massasoit  on  foot  through 
the  woods,  and  arrived  tired  and  hungry  at  his 
lodge,  they  were  well  received  by  the  king,  but 
nothing  was  said  about  eating  that  day.  When 
the  night  arrived,  to  quote  their  own  words,  — 
"He  laid  us  on  the  bed  with  himself  and  his 
wife,  they  at  the  one  end  and  we  at  the  other,  it 
being  only  plank,  laid  a  foot  from  the  ground, 
and  a  thin  mat  upon  them.  Two  more  of  his 
chief  men,  for  want  of  room,  pressed  by  and 
upon  us;  so  that  we  were  worse  weary  of  our 
lodging  than  of  our  journey."  At  one  o'clock 
the  next  day  Massasoit  "brought  two  fishes  that 
he  had  shot,"  about  thrice  as  big  as  a  bream; 
"these  being  boiled,  there  were  at  least  forty 
looked  for  a  share  in  them.  The  most  ate  of 
them.  This  meal  only  we  had  in  two  nights  and 
a  day ;  and  had  not  one  of  us  bought  a  partridge, 
we  had  taken  our  journey  fasting."  Fearing 
that  they  would  be  light-headed  for  want  of 
food  and  also  sleep,  owing  to  "the  savages'  bar 
barous  singing  (for  they  used  to  sing  themselves 
asleep),"  and  that  they  might  get  home  while 
they  had  strength  to  travel,  they  departed.  As 


for  lodging,  it  is  true  they  were  but  poorly  en 
tertained,  though  what  they  found  an  incon 
venience  was  no  doubt  intended  for  an  honor; 
but  as  far  as  eating  was  concerned,  I  do  not  see 
how  the  Indians  could  have  done  better.  They 
had  nothing  to  eat  themselves,  and  they  were 
wiser  than  to  think  that  apologies  could  supply 
the  place  of  food  to  their  guests;  so  they  drew 
their  belts  tighter  and  said  nothing  about  it. 
Another  time  when  Winslow  visited  them,  it 
being  a  season  of  plenty  with  them,  there  was 
no  deficiency  in  this  respect. 

As  for  men,  they  will  hardly  fail  one  anywhere. 
I  had  more  visitors  while  I  lived  in  the  woods 
than  at  any  other  period  of  my  life ;  I  mean  that 
I  had  some.  I  met  several  there  under  more 
favorable  circumstances  than  I  could  anywhere 
else.  But  fewer  came  to  see  me  upon  trivial 
business.  In  this  respect,  my  company  was  win 
nowed  by  my  mere  distance  from  town.  I  had 
withdrawn  so  far  within  the  great  ocean  of  soli 
tude,  into  which  the  rivers  of  society  empty,  that 
for  the  most  part,  so  far  as  my  needs  were  con 
cerned,  only  the  finest  sediment  was  deposited 
around  me.  Besides,  there  were  wafted  to  me 
evidences  of  unexplored  and  uncultivated  con 
tinents  on  the  other  side. 

Who  should  come  to  my  lodge  this  morning 
but  a  true  Homeric  or  Paphlagonian  man,  --he 
had  so  suitable  and  poetic  a  name  that  I  am  sorry 

190  WALDEN 

I  cannot  print  it  here,  —  a  Canadian,  a  wood- 
chopper  and  post-maker,  who  can  hole  fifty 
posts  in  a  day,  who  made  his  last  supper  on  a 
woodchuck  which  his  dog  caught.  He,  too,  has 
heard  of  Homer,  and,  "if  it  were  not  for  books," 
would  "not  know  what  to  do  rainy  days,"  though 
perhaps  he  has  not  read  one  wholly  through  for 
many  rainy  seasons.  Some  priest  who  could 
pronounce  the  Greek  itself  taught  him  to  read 
his  verse  in  the  testament  in  his  native  parish  far 
away;  and  now  I  must  translate  to  him,  while 
he  holds  the  book,  Achilles'  reproof  to  Patroclus, 
for  his  sad  countenance.  —  "Why  are  you  in 
tears,  Patroclus,  like  a  young  girl  ?"  — 

"Or  have  you  alone  heard  some  news  from  Phthia? 
They  say  that  Menoetius  lives  yet,  son  of  Actor, 
And  Peleus  lives,  son  of  ^Eacus,  among  the  Myrmidons, 
Either  of  whom  having  died,  we  should  greatly  grieve." 

He  says,  "That 's  good."  He  has  a  great  bundle 
of  white-oak  bark  under  his  arm  for  a  sick  man, 
gathered  this  Sunday  morning.  "I  suppose 
there  's  no  harm  in  going  after  such  a  thing  to 
day,"  says  he.  To  him  Homer  was  a  great  writer, 
though  what  his  writing  was  about  he  did  not 
know.  A  more  simple  and  natural  man  it  would 
be  hard  to  find.  Vice  and  disease,  which  cast 
such  a  sombre  moral  hue  over  the  world,  seemed 
to  have  hardly  any  existence  for  him.  He  was 
about  twenty-eight  years  old,  and  had  left 
Canada  and  his  father's  house  a  dozen  years  be- 


fore  to  work  in  the  States,  and  earn  money  to 
buy  a  farm  with  at  last,  perhaps  in  his  native 
country.  He  was  cast  in  the  coarsest  mould ;  a 
stout  but  sluggish  body,  yet  gracefully  carried, 
with  a  thick  sunburnt  neck,  dark  bushy  hair, 
and  dull  sleepy  blue  eyes,  which  were  occasion 
ally  lit  up  with  expression.  He  wore  a  flat  gray 
cloth  cap,  a  dingy  wool-colored  greatcoat,  and 
cowhide  boots.  He  was  a  great  consumer  of 
meat,  usually  carrying  his  dinner  to  his  work  a 
couple  of  miles  past  my  house,  —  for  he  chopped 
all  summer, — in  a  tin  pail;  cold  meats,  often 
cold  woodchucks,  and  coffee  in  a  stone  bottle 
which  dangled  by  a  string  from  his  belt ;  and 
sometimes  he  offered  me  a  drink.  He  came 
along  early,  crossing  my  beanfield,  though  with 
out  anxiety  or  haste  to  get  to  his  work,  such  as 
Yankees  exhibit.  He  was  n't  a-going  to  hurt 
himself.  He  did  n't  care  if  he  only  earned  his 
board.  Frequently  he  would  leave  his  dinner 
in  the  bushes,  when  his  dog  had  caught  a  wood- 
chuck  by  the  way,  and  go  back  a  mile  and  a  half 
to  dress  it  and  leave  it  in  the  cellar  of  the  house 
where  he  boarded,  after  deliberating  first  for  half 
an  hour  whether  he  could  not  sink  it  in  the  pond 
safely  till  nightfall,  —  loving  to  dwell  long  upon 
these  themes.  He  would  say,  as  he  went  by  in 
the  morning:  "How  thick  the  pigeons  are!  If 
working  every  day  were  not  my  trade,  I  could 
get  all  the  meat  I  should  want  by  hunting,  — 

192  WALDEN 

pigeons,  woodchucks,  rabbits,  partridges,  —  by 
gosh  !  I  could  get  all  I  should  want  for  a  week 
in  one  day." 

He  was  a  skilful  chopper,  and  indulged  in 
some  flourishes  and  ornaments  in  his  art.  He 
cut  his  trees  level  and  close  to  the  ground,  that 
the  sprouts  which  came  up  afterward  might  be 
more  vigorous  and  a  sled  might  slide  over  the 
stumps;  and  instead  of  leaving  a  whole  tree  to 
support  his  corded  wood,  he  would  pare  it  away 
to  a  slender  stake  or  splinter  which  you  could 
break  off  with  your  hand  at  last. 

He  interested  me  because  he  was  so  quiet  and 
solitary  and  so  happy  withal:  a  well  of  good 
humor  and  contentment  which  overflowed  at 
his  eyes.  His  mirth  was  without  alloy.  Some 
times  I  saw  him  at  his  work  in  the  woods,  felling 
trees,  and  he  would  greet  me  with  a  laugh  of  in 
expressible  satisfaction,  and  a  salutation  in 
Canadian  French,  though  he  spoke  English  as 
well.  When  I  approached  him  he  would  sus 
pend  his  work,  and  with  half-suppressed  mirth 
lie  along  the  trunk  of  a  pine  which  he  had  felled, 
and,  peeling  off  the  inner  bark,  roll  it  up  into  a 
ball  and  chew  it  while  he  laughed  and  talked. 
Such  an  exuberance  of  animal  spirits  had  he  that 
he  sometimes  tumbled  down  and  rolled  on  the 
ground  with  laughter  at  anything  which  made 
him  think  and  tickled  him.  Looking  round  upon 
the  trees  he  would  exclaim,  —  "By  George!  I 


can  enjoy  myself  well  enough  here  chopping;  I 
want  no  better  sport."  Sometimes,  when  at 
leisure,  he  amused  himself  all  day  in  the  woods 
with  a  pocket  pistol,  firing  salutes  to  himself  at 
regular  intervals  as  he  walked.  In  the  winter  he 
had  a  fire  by  which  at  noon  he  warmed  his  coffee 
in  a  kettle ;  and  as  he  sat  on  a  log  to  eat  his  dinner 
the  chickadees  would  sometimes  come  round  and 
alight  on  his  arm  and  peck  at  the  potato  in  his 
fingers;  and  he  said  that  he  "liked  to  have  the 
little  fellers  about  him." 

In  him  the  animal  man  chiefly  was  developed. 
In  physical  endurance  and  contentment  he  was 
cousin  to  the  pine  and  the  rock.  I  asked  him 
once  if  he  was  not  sometimes  tired  at  night,  after 
working  all  day;  and  he  answered  with  a  sin 
cere  and  serious  look,  "Gorrappit,  I  never  was 
tired  in  my  life."  But  the  intellectual  and  what 
is  called  spiritual  man  in  him  were  slumbering 
as  in  an  infant.  He  had  been  instructed  only  in 
that  innocent  and  ineffectual  way  in  which  the 
Catholic  priests  teach  the  aborigines,  by  which 
the  pupil  is  never  educated  to  the  degree  of  con 
sciousness,  but  only  to  the  degree  of  trust  and 
reverence,  and  a  child  is  not  made  a  man,  but 
kept  a  child.  When  Nature  made  him,  she  gave 
him  a  strong  body  and  contentment  for  his  por 
tion,  and  propped  him  on  every  side  with  rever 
ence  and  reliance,  that  he  might  live  out  his  three 
score  years  and  ten  a  child.  He  was  so  genuine 


194  WALDEN 

and  unsophisticated  that  no  introduction  would 
serve  to  introduce  him,  more  than  if  you  intro 
duced  a  woodchuck  to  your  neighbor.  He  had 
got  to  find  him  out  as  you  did.  He  would  not 
play  any  part.  Men  paid  him  wages  for  work, 
and  so  helped  to  feed  and  clothe  him;  but  he 
never  exchanged  opinions  with  them.  He  was  so 
simply  and  naturally  humble  —  if  he  can  be 
called  humble  who  never  aspires  —  that  humility 
was  no  distinct  quality  in  him,  nor  could  he  con 
ceive  of  it.  Wiser  men  were  demigods  to  him.  If 
you  told  him  that  such  a  one  was  coming,  he  did 
as  if  he  thought  that  anything  so  grand  would  ex 
pect  nothing  of  himself,  but  take  all  the  respon 
sibility  on  itself,  and  let  him  be  forgotten  still. 
He  never  heard  the  sound  of  praise.  He  par 
ticularly  reverenced  the  writer  and  the  preacher. 
Their  performances  were  miracles.  When  I 
told  him  that  I  wrote  considerably,  he  thought 
for  a  long  time  that  it  was  merely  the  hand 
writing  which  I  meant,  for  he  could  write  a  re 
markably  good  hand  himself.  I  sometimes 
found  the  name  of  his  native  parish  handsomely 
written  in  the  snow  by  the  highway,  with  the 
proper  French  accent,  and  knew  that  he  had 
passed.  I  asked  him  if  he  ever  wished  to  write 
his  thoughts.  He  said  that  he  had  read  and 
written  letters  for  those  who  could  not,  but  he 
never  tried  to  write  thoughts,  —  no,  he  could 
not,  he  could  not  tell  what  to  put  first,  it  would 


kill  him,  and  then  there  was  spelling  to  be  at 
tended  to  at  the  same  time ! 

I  heard  that  a  distinguished  wise  man  and  re 
former  asked  him  if  he  did  not  want  the  world 
to  be  changed ;  but  he  answered  with  a  chuckle 
of  surprise  in  his  Canadian  accent,  not  knowing 
that  the  question  had  ever  been  entertained  be 
fore,  "No,  I  like  it  well  enough."  It  would  have 
suggested  many  things  to  a  philosopher  to  have 
dealings  with  him.  To  a  stranger  he  appeared 
to  know  nothing  of  things  in  general;  yet  I 
sometimes  saw  in  him  a  man  whom  I  had  not  seen 
before,  and  I  did  not  know  whether  he  was  as 
wise  as  Shakspeare  or  as  simply  ignorant  as  a 
child,  whether  to  suspect  him  of  a  fine  poetic 
consciousness  or  of  stupidity.  A  townsman  told 
me  that  when  he  met  him  sauntering  through 
the  village  in  his  small  close-fitting  cap,  and 
whistling  to  himself,  he  reminded  him  of  a  prince 
in  disguise. 

His  only  books  were  an  almanac  and  an  arith 
metic,  in  which  last  he  was  considerably  expert. 
The  former  was  a  sort  of  cyclopaedia  to  him, 
which  he  supposed  to  contain  an  abstract  of 
human  knowledge,  as  indeed  it  does  to  a  consid 
erable  extent.  I  loved  to  sound  him  on  the  vari 
ous  reforms  of  the  day,  and  he  never  failed  to 
look  at  them  in  the  most  simple  and  practical 
light.  He  had  never  heard  of  such  things  be 
fore.  Could  he  do  without  factories  ?  I  asked. 

196  WALDEN 

He  had  worn  the  home-made  Vermont  gray,  he 
said,  and  that  was  good.  Could  he  dispense 
with  tea  and  coffee  ?  Did  this  country  afford  any 
beverage  besides  water?  He  had  soaked  hem 
lock  leaves  in  water  and  drunk  it,  and  thought 
that  was  better  than  water  in  warm  weather. 
When  I  asked  him  if  he  could  do  without  money, 
he  showed  the  convenience  of  money  in  such  a 
way  as  to  suggest  and  coincide  with  the  most 
philosophical  accounts  of  the  origin  of  this  insti 
tution,  and  the  very  derivation  of  the  word 
pecunia.  If  an  ox  were  his  property,  and  he 
wished  to  get  needles  and  thread  at  the  store,  he 
thought  it  would  be  inconvenient,  and  impossi 
ble  soon,  to  go  on  mortgaging  some  portion  of 
the  creature  each  time  to  that  amount.  He 
could  defend  many  institutions  better  than  any 
philosopher,  because,  in  describing  them  as  they 
concerned  him,  he  gave  the  true  reason  for  their 
prevalence,  and  speculation  had  not  suggested  to 
him  any  other.  At  another  time,  hearing  Plato's 
definition  of  a  man,  —  a  biped  without  feathers, 
-  and  that  one  exhibited  a  cock  plucked  and 
called  it  Plato's  man,  he  thought  it  an  important 
difference  that  the  knees  bent  the  wrong  way. 
He  would  sometimes  exclaim:  "How  I  love  to 
talk!  By  George,  I  could  talk  all  day!"  I 
asked  him  once,  when  I  had  not  seen  him  for 
many  months,  if  he  had  got  a  new  idea  this  sum 
mer.  "Good  Lord,"  said  he,  "a  man  that  has 


to  work  as  I  do,  if  he  does  not  forget  the  ideas 
he  has  had,  he  will  do  well.  Maybe  the  man 
you  hoe  with  is  inclined  to  race ;  then,  by  gorry, 
your  mind  must  be  there;  you  think  of  weeds." 
He  would  sometimes  ask  me  first,  on  such  occa 
sions,  if  I  had  made  any  improvement.  One 
winter  day  I  asked  him  if  he  was  always  satisfied 
with  himself,  wishing  to  suggest  a  substitute 
within  him  for  the  priest  without,  and  some  higher 
motive  for  living.  "Satisfied  !"  said  he;  "some 
men  are  satisfied  with  one  thing,  and  some  with 
another.  One  man,  perhaps,  if  he  has  got  enough, 
will  be  satisfied  to  sit  all  day  with  his  back  to 
the  fire  and  his  belly  to  the  table,  by  George !" 
Yet  I  never,  by  any  manoeuvring,  could  get  him 
to  take  the  spiritual  view  of  things;  the  highest 
that  he  appeared  to  conceive  of  was  a  simple  ex 
pediency,  such  as  you  might  expect  an  animal  to 
appreciate ;  and  this,  practically,  is  true  of  most 
men.  If  I  suggested  any  improvement  in  his 
mode  of  life,  he  merely  answered,  without  ex 
pressing  any  regret,  that  it  was  too  late.  Yet 
he  thoroughly  believed  in  honesty  and  the  like 

There  was  a  certain  positive  originality,  how 
ever  slight,  to  be  detected  in  him,  and  I  occasion 
ally  observed  that  he  was  thinking  for  himself 
and  expressing  his  own  opinion,  a  phenomenon 
so  rare  that  I  would  any  day  walk  ten  miles 
to  observe  it,  and  it  amounted  to  the  reorig- 

198  WALDEN 

ination  of  many  of  the  institutions  of  society. 
Though  he  hesitated,  and  perhaps  failed  to  ex 
press  himself  distinctly,  he  always  had  a  pre 
sentable  thought  behind.  Yet  his  thinking 
was  so  primitive  and  immersed  in  his  animal 
life,  that,  though  more  promising  than  a  merely 
learned  man's,  it  rarely  ripened  to  anything 
which  can  be  reported.  He  suggested  that  there 
might  be  men  of  genius  in  the  lowest  grades  of 
life,  however  permanently  humble  and  illiterate, 
who  take  their  own  view  always,  or  do  not  pre 
tend  to  see  at  all ;  who  are  as  bottomless  even  as 
Walden  Pond  was  thought  to  be,  though  they 
may  be  dark  and  muddy. 

Many  a  traveller  came  out  of  his  way  to  see  me 
and  the  inside  of  my  house,  and,  as  an  excuse  for 
calling,  asked  for  a  glass  of  water.  I  told  them 
that  I  drank  at  the  pond,  and  pointed  thither, 
offering  to  lend  them  a  dipper.  Far  off  as  I  lived, 
I  was  not  exempted  from  that  annual  visitation 
which  occurs,  methinks,  about  the  first  of  April, 
when  everybody  is  on  the  move;  and  I  had  my 
share  of  good  luck,  though  there  were  some 
curious  specimens  among  my  visitors.  Half 
witted  men  from  the  almshouse  and  elsewhere 
came  to  see  me ;  but  I  endeavored  to  make  them 
exercise  all  the  wit  they  had,  and  make  their  con 
fessions  to  me;  in  such  cases  making  wit  the 
theme  of  our  conversation;  and  so  was  com- 


pensated.  Indeed,  I  found  some  of  them  to  be 
wiser  than  the  so-called  overseers  of  the  poor  and 
selectmen  of  the  town,  and  thought  it  was  time 
that  the  tables  were  turned.  With  respect  to  wit, 
I  learned  that  there  was  not  much  difference  be 
tween  the  half  and  the  whole.  One  day,  in  par 
ticular,  an  inoffensive,  simple-minded  pauper, 
whom  with  others  I  had  often  seen  used  as  fenc 
ing  stuff,  standing  or  sitting  on  a  bushel  in  the 
fields  to  keep  cattle  and  himself  from  straying, 
visited  me,  and  expressed  a  wish  to  live  as  I  did. 
He  told  me,  with  the  utmost  simplicity  and 
truth,  quite  superior,  or  rather  inferior,  to  any 
thing  that  is  called  humility,  that  he  was  "defi 
cient  in  intellect."  These  were  his  words.  The 
Lord  had  made  him  so,  yet  he  supposed  the 
Lord  cared  as  much  for  him  as  for  another. 
"I  have  always  been  so,"  said  he,  "from  my 
childhood ;  I  never  had  much  mind ;  I  was  not 
like  other  children ;  I  am  weak  in  the  head.  It 
was  the  Lord's  will,  I  suppose."  And  there  he 
was  to  prove  the  truth  of  his  words.  He  was  a 
metaphysical  puzzle  to  me.  I  have  rarely  met  a 
fellow-man  on  such  promising  ground,  —  it  was 
so  simple  and  sincere  and  so  true,  all  that  he 
said.  And,  true  enough,  in  proportion  as  he  ap 
peared  to  humble  himself  was  he  exalted.  I  did 
not  know  at  first  but  it  was  the  result  of  a  wise 
policy.  It  seemed  that  from  such  a  basis  of 
truth  and  frankness  as  the  poor  weak-headed 

£00  WALDEN 

pauper  had  laid,  our  intercourse  might  go  for 
ward  to  something  better  than  the  intercourse 
of  sages. 

I  had  some  guests  from  those  not  reckoned 
commonly  among  the  town's  poor,  but  who 
should  be;  who  are  among  the  world's  poor,  at 
any  rate ;  guests  who  appeal,  not  to  your  hospital 
ity,  but  to  your  hospital-ality  ;  who  earnestly  wish 
to  be  helped,  and  preface  their  appeal  with  the  in 
formation  that  they  are  resolved,  for  one  thing, 
never  to  help  themselves.  I  require  of  a  visitor 
that  he  be  not  actually  starving,  though  he  may 
have  the  very  best  appetite  in  the  world,  however 
he  got  it.  Objects  of  charity  are  not  guests. 
Men  who  did  not  know  when  their  visit  had 
terminated,  though  I  went  about  my  business 
again,  answering  them  from  greater  and  greater 
remoteness.  Men  of  almost  every  degree  of  wit 
called  on  me  in  the  migrating  season.  Some 
who  had  more  wits  than  they  knew  what  to  do 
with;  runaway  slaves  with  plantation  manners, 
who  listened  from  time  to  time,  like  the  fox  in  the 
fable,  as  if  they  heard  the  hounds  a-baying  on 
their  track,  and  looked  at  me  beseechingly,  as 
much  as  to  say,  — 

"O  Christian,  will  you  send  me  back?" 

One  real  runaway  slave  among  the  rest,  whom  I 
helped  to  forward  toward  the  north  star.  Men  of 
one  idea,  like  a  hen  with  one  chicken,  and  that  a 

Children  in  the  woods  by  the  pond 


duckling;  men  of  a  thousand  ideas,  and  un 
kempt  heads,  like  those  hens  which  are  made  to 
take  charge  of  a  hundred  chickens,  all  in  pursuit 
of  one  bug,  a  score  of  them  lost  in  every  morn 
ing's  dew,  —  and  become  frizzled  and  mangy  in 
consequence;  men  of  ideas  instead  of  legs,  a 
sort  of  intellectual  centipede  that  made  you  crawl 
all  over.  One  man  proposed  a  book  in  which 
visitors  should  write  their  names,  as  at  the  White 
Mountains ;  but,  alas  !  I  have  too  good  a  mem 
ory  to  make  that  necessary. 

I  could  not  but  notice  some  of  the  peculiarities 
of  my  visitors.  Girls  and  boys  and  young 
women  generally  seemed  glad  to  be  in  the  woods. 
They  looked  in  the  pond  and  at  the  flowers,  and 
improved  their  time.  Men  of  business,  even 
farmers,  thought  only  of  solitude  and  employ 
ment,  and  of  the  great  distance  at  which  I  dwelt 
from  something  or  other;  and  though  they  said 
that  they  loved  a  ramble  in  the  woods  occa 
sionally,  it  was  obvious  that  they  did  not.  Rest 
less  committed  men,  whose  time  was  all  taken 
up  in  getting  a  living  or  keeping  it;  ministers 
who  spoke  of  God  as  if  they  enjoyed  a  monop 
oly  of  the  subject,  who  could  not  bear  all  kinds  of 
opinions ;  doctors,  lawyers,  uneasy  housekeepers 
who  pried  into  my  cupboard  and  bed  when  I 
was  out,  —  how  came  Mrs.  -  -  to  know  that 
my  sheets  were  not  as  clean  as  hers? --young 
men  who  had  ceased  to  be  young,  and  had  con- 

202  WALDEN 

eluded  that  it  was  safest  to  follow  the  beaten 
track  of  the  professions,  —  all  these  generally 
said  that  it  was  not  possible  to  do  so  much  good 
in  my  position.  Ay !  there  was  the  rub.  The 
old  and  infirm  and  the  timid,  of  whatever  age  or 
sex,  thought  most  of  sickness,  and  sudden  acci 
dent  and  death ;  to  them  life  seemed  full  of  dan 
ger,  —  what  danger  is  there  if  you  don't  think  of 
any  ?  —  and  they  thought  that  a  prudent  man 
would  carefully  select  the  safest  position,  where 
Dr.  B.  might  be  on  hand  at  a  moment's  warn 
ing.  To  them  the  village  was  literally  a  com 
munity,  a  league  for  mutual  defence,  and  you 
would  suppose  that  they  would  not  go  a-huckle- 
berrying  without  a  medicine  chest.  The  amount 
of  it  is,  if  a  man  is  alive,  there  is  always  danger 
that  he  may  die,  though  the  danger  must  be  al 
lowed  to  be  less  in  proportion  as  he  is  dead-and- 
alive  to  begin  with.  A  man  sits  as  many  risks 
as  he  runs.  Finally,  there  were  the  self-styled 
reformers,  the  greatest  bores  of  all,  who  thought 
that  I  was  forever  singing,  - 

This  is  the  house  that  I  built; 

This  is  the  man  that  lives  in  the  house  that  I  built; 

but  they  did  not  know  that  the  third  line  was,  — 

These  are  the  folks  that  worry  the  man 
That  lives  in  the  house  that  I  built. 

I  did  not  fear  the  hen-harriers,  for  I  kept  no 
chickens ;  but  I  feared  the  men-harriers  rather. 


I  had  more  cheering  visitors  than  the  last. 
Children  come  a-berrying,  railroad  men  taking 
a  Sunday  morning  walk  in  clean  shirts,  fisher 
men  and  hunters,  poets  and  philosophers,  in 
short,  all  honest  pilgrims,  who  came  out  to  the 
woods  for  freedom's  sake,  and  really  left  the  vil 
lage  behind,  I  was  ready  to  greet  with,  —  "Wel 
come,  Englishmen!  welcome,  Englishmen!" 
for  I  had  had  communication  with  that  race. 



MEANWHILE  my  beans,  the  length  of 
whose  rows,  added  together,  was  seven 
miles  already  planted,  were  impatient 
to  be  hoed,  for  the  earliest  had  grown  consider 
ably  before  the  latest  were  in  the  ground;  in 
deed,  they  were  not  easily  to  be  put  off.  What 
was  the  meaning  of  this  so  steady  and  self-re 
specting,  this  small  Herculean  labor,  I  knew  not. 
I  came  to  love  my  rows,  my  beans,  though  so 
many  more  than  I  wanted.  They  attached  me 
to  the  earth,  and  so  I  got  strength  like  Antseus. 
But  why  should  I  raise  them?  Only  Heaven 
knows.  This  was  my  curious  labor  all  summer, 
-  to  make  this  portion  of  the  earth's  surface, 
which  had  yielded  only  cinquefoil,  blackberries, 
johnswort,  and  the  like,  before,  sweet  wild  fruits 
and  pleasant  flowers,  produce  instead  this  pulse. 
What  shall  I  learn  of  beans  or  beans  of  me  ?  I 
cherish  them,  I  hoe  them,  early  and  late  I  have 
an  eye  to  them;  and  this  is  my  day's  work.  It 
is  a  fine  broad  leaf  to  look  on.  My  auxiliaries  are 
the  dews  and  rains  which  water  this  dry  soil,  and 


what  fertility  is  in  the  soil  itself,  which  for  the 
most  part  is  lean  and  effete.  My  enemies  are 
worms,  cool  days,  and  most  of  all  woodchucks. 
The  last  have  nibbled  for  me  a  quarter  of  an 
acre  clean.  But  what  right  had  I  to  oust  johns- 
wort  and  the  rest,  and  break  up  their  ancient 
herb  garden  ?  Soon,  however,  the  remaining 
beans  will  be  too  tough  for  them,  and  go  for 
ward  to  meet  new  foes. 

When  I  was  four  years  old,  as  I  well  remem 
ber,  I  was  brought  from  Boston  to  this  my 
native  town,  through  these  very  woods  and  this 
field,  to  the  pond.  It  is  one  of  the  oldest  scenes 
stamped  on  my  memory.  And  now  to-night  my 
flute  has  waked  the  echoes  over  that  very  water. 
The  pines  still  stand  here  older  than  I;  or,  if 
some  have  fallen,  I  have  cooked  my  supper  with 
their  stumps,  and  a  new  growth  is  rising  all 
around,  preparing  another  aspect  for  new  in 
fant  eyes.  Almost  the  same  Johns  wort  springs 
from  the  same  perennial  root  in  this  pasture, 
and  even  I  have  at  length  helped  to  clothe  that 
fabulous  landscape  of  my  infant  dreams,  and 
one  of  the  results  of  my  presence  and  influence 
is  seen  in  these  bean  leaves,  corn  blades,  and 
potato  vines. 

I  planted  about  two  acres  and  a  half  of  up 
land  ;  and  as  it  was  only  about  fifteen  years  since 
the  land  was  cleared,  and  I  myself  had  got  out 
two  or  three  cords  of  stumps,  I  did  not  give  it 

206  WALDEN 

any  manure;  but  in  the  course  of  the  summer 
it  appeared  by  the  arrow-heads  which  I  turned 
up  in  hoeing,  that  an  extinct  nation  had  an 
ciently  dwelt  here  and  planted  corn  and  beans 
ere  white  men  came  to  clear  the  land,  and  so,  to 
some  extent,  had  exhausted  the  soil  for  this  very 

Before  yet  any  woodchuck  or  squirrel  had  run 
across  the  road,  or  the  sun  had  got  above  the 
shrub-oaks,  while  all  the  dew  was  on,  though 
the  farmers  warned  me  against  it,  —  I  would 
advise  you  to  do  all  your  work  if  possible  while 
the  dew  is  on,  —  I  began  to  level  the  ranks  of 
haughty  weeds  in  my  beanfield  and  throw  dust 
upon  their  heads.  Early  in  the  morning  I 
worked  barefooted,  dabbling  like  a  plastic  artist 
in  the  dewy  and  crumbling  sand,  but  later  in  the 
day  the  sun  blistered  my  feet.  There  the  sun 
lighted  me  to  hoe  beans,  pacing  slowly  back 
ward  and  forward  over  that  yellow  gravelly  up 
land,  between  the  long  green  rows,  fifteen  rods, 
the  one  end  terminating  in  a  shrub-oak  copse 
where  I  could  rest  in  the  shade,  the  other  in  a 
blackberry  field  where  the  green  berries  deep 
ened  their  tints  by  the  time  I  had  made  another 
bout.  Removing  the  weeds,  putting  fresh  soil 
about  the  bean  stems,  and  encouraging  this 
weed  which  I  had  sown,  making  the  yellow  soil 
express  its  summer  thought  in  bean  leaves  and 
blossoms  rather  than  in  wormwood  and  piper 


and  millet  grass,  making  the  earth  say  beans 
instead  of  grass,  --  this  was  my  daily  work.  As 
I  had  little  aid  from  horses  or  cattle,  or  hired 
men  or  boys,  or  improved  implements  of  hus 
bandry,  I  was  much  slower,  and  became  much 
more  intimate  with  my  beans  than  usual.  But 
labor  of  the  hands,  even  when  pursued  to  the 
verge  of  drudgery,  is  perhaps  never  the  worst 
form  of  idleness.  It  has  a  constant  and  imper 
ishable  moral,  and  to  the  scholar  it  yields  a 
classic  result.  A  very  agricola  laboriosus  was 
I  to  travellers  bound  westward  through  Lincoln 
and  Wayland  to  nobody  knows  where;  they 
sitting  at  their  ease  in  gigs,  with  elbows  on 
knees,  and  reins  loosely  hanging  in  festoons ;  I 
the  home-staying  laborious  native  of  the  soil. 
But  soon  my  homestead  was  out  of  their  sight 
and  thought.  It  was  the  only  open  and  culti 
vated  field  for  a  great  distance  on  either  side  of 
the  road;  so  they  made  the  most  of  it;  and 
sometimes  the  man  in  the  field  heard  more  of 
travellers'  gossip  and  comment  than  was  meant 
for  his  ear:  "Beans  so  late  !  peas  so  late  !"  - 
for  I  continued  to  plant  when  others  had  begun 
to  hoe, --the  ministerial  husbandman  had  not 
suspected  it.  "Corn,  my  boy,  for  fodder;  corn 
for  fodder."  "Does  he  live  there?"  asks  the 
black  bonnet  of  the  gray  coat;  and  the  hard- 
featured  farmer  reins  up  his  grateful  dobbin  to 
inquire  what  you  are  doing  where  he  sees  no 

208  WALDEN 

manure  in  the  furrow,  and  recommends  a  little 
chip  dirt,  or  any  little  waste  stuff,  or  it  may  be 
ashes  or  plaster.  But  here  were  two  acres  and  a 
half  of  furrows,  and  only  a  hoe  for  cart  and  two 
hands  to  draw  it,  —  there  being  an  aversion  to 
other  carts  and  horses,  —  and  chip  dirt  far  away. 
Fellow-travellers  as  they  rattled  by  compared  it 
aloud  with  the  fields  which  they  had  passed,  so 
that  I  came  to  know  how  I  stood  in  the  agricul 
tural  world.  This  was  one  field  not  in  Mr.  Cole- 
man's  report.  And,  by  the  way,  who  estimates 
the  value  of  the  crop  which  Nature  yields  in  the 
still  wilder  fields  unimproved  by  man  ?  The  crop 
of  English  hay  is  carefully  weighed,  the  moist 
ure  calculated,  the  silicates  and  the  potash;  but 
in  all  dells  and  pond  holes  in  the  woods  and 
pastures  and  swamps  grows  a  rich  and  various 
crop  only  unreaped  by  man.  Mine  was,  as  it 
were,  the  connecting  link  between  wild  and  cul 
tivated  fields;  as  some  states  are  civilized,  and 
others  half-civilized,  and  others  savage  or  bar 
barous,  so  my  field  was,  though  not  in  a  bad 
sense,  a  half-cultivated  field.  They  were  beans 
cheerfully  returning  to  their  wild  and  primitive 
state  that  I  cultivated,  and  my  hoe  played  the 
Rans  des  V aches  for  them. 

Near  at  hand,  upon  the  topmost  spray  of  a 
birch,  sings  the  brown-thrasher  —  or  red  mavis, 
as  some  love  to  call  him  —  all  the  morning,  glad 
of  your  society,  that  would  find  out  another 


farmer's  field  if  yours  were  not  here.  While  you 
are  planting  the  seed,  he  cries,-  "Drop  it, 
drop  it,  —  cover  it  up,  cover  it  up,  --  pull  it  up, 
pull  it  up,  pull  it  up."  But  this  was  not  corn, 
and  so  it  was  safe  from  such  enemies  as  he. 
You  may  wonder  what  his  rigmarole,  his  ama 
teur  Paganini  performances  on  one  string  or 
on  twenty,  have  to  do  with  your  planting,  and 
yet  prefer  it  to  leached  ashes  or  plaster.  It  was 
a  cheap  sort  of  top  dressing  in  which  I  had 
entire  faith. 

As  I  drew  a  still  fresher  soil  about  the  rows 
with  my  hoe,  I  disturbed  the  ashes  of  unchroni- 
cled  nations  who  in  primeval  years  lived  under 
these  heavens,  and  their  small  implements  of 
war  and  hunting  were  brought  to  the  light  of 
this  modern  day.  They  lay  mingled  with  other 
natural  stones,  some  of  which  bore  the  marks 
of  having  been  burned  by  Indian  fires,  and  some 
by  the  sun,  and  also  bits  of  pottery  and  glass 
brought  hither  by  the  recent  cultivators  of  the 
soil.  When  my  hoe  tinkled  against  the  stones, 
that  music  echoed  to  the  woods  and  the  sky,  and 
was  an  accompaniment  to  my  labor  which 
yielded  an  instant  and  immeasurable  crop.  It 
was  no  longer  beans  that  I  hoed,  nor  I  that  hoed 
beans;  and  I  remembered  with  as  much  pity 
as  pride,  if  I  remembered  at  all,  my  acquaint 
ances  who  had  gone  to  the  city  to  attend  the 
oratorios.  The  night-hawk  circled  overhead  in 

210  WALDEN 

the  sunny  afternoons  —  for  I  sometimes  made 
a  day  of  it  —  like  a  mote  in  the  eye,  or  in  heav 
en's  eye,  falling  from  time  to  time  with  a  swoop 
and  a  sound  as  if  the  heavens  were  rent,  torn  at 
last  to  very  rags  and  tatters,  and  yet  a  seamless 
cope  remained;  small  imps  that  fill  the  air  and 
lay  their  eggs  on  the  ground  on  bare  sand  or 
rocks  on  the  tops  of  hills,  where  few  have  found 
them;  graceful  and  slender,  like  ripples  caught 
up  from  the  pond,  as  leaves  are  raised  by  the 
wind  to  float  in  the  heavens;  such  kindredship 
is  in  Nature.  The  hawk  is  aerial  brother  of  the 
wave  which  he  sails  over  and  surveys,  those  his 
perfect  air-inflated  wings  answering  to  the  ele 
mental  unfledged  pinions  of  the  sea.  Or  some 
times  I  watched  a  pair  of  hen-hawks  circling 
high  in  the  sky,  alternately  soaring  and  de 
scending,  approaching  and  leaving  one  another, 
as  if  they  were  the  embodiment  of  my  own 
thoughts.  Or  I  was  attracted  by  the  passage  of 
wild  pigeons  from  this  wood  to  that,  with  a 
slight  quivering  winnowing  sound  and  carrier 
haste;  or  from  under  a  rotten  stump  my  hoe 
turned  up  a  sluggish,  portentous,  and  outlandish 
spotted  salamander,  a  trace  of  Egypt  and  the 
Nile,  yet  our  contemporary.  When  I  paused  to 
lean  on  my  hoe,  these  sounds  and  sights  I  heard 
and  saw  anywhere  in  the  row,  a  part  of  the  in 
exhaustible  entertainment  which  the  country 


On  gala  days  the  town  fires  its  great  guns, 
which  echo  like  popguns  to  these  woods,  and 
some  waifs  of  martial  music  occasionally  pene 
trate  thus  far.  To  me,  away  there  in  my  bean- 
field  at  the  other  end  of  the  town,  the  big  guns 
sounded  as  if  a  puff  ball  had  burst;  and  when 
there  was  a  military  turnout  of  which  I  was 
ignorant,  I  have  sometimes  had  a  vague  sense  all 
the  day  of  some  sort  of  itching  and  disease  in 
the  horizon  as  if  some  eruption  would  break  out 
there  soon,  either  scarlatina  or  canker-rash,  un 
til  at  length  some  more  favorable  puff  of  wind, 
making  haste  over  the  fields  and  up  the  Way- 
land  road,  brought  me  information  of  the  "train 
ers."  It  seemed  by  the  distant  hum  as  if 
somebody's  bees  had  swarmed,  and  that  the 
neighbors,  according  to  Virgil's  advice,  by  a 
faint  tintinnabulum  upon  the  most  sonorous  of 
their  domestic  utensils,  were  endeavoring  to  call 
them  down  into  the  hive  again.  And  when  the 
sound  died  quite  away,  and  the  hum  had  ceased, 
and  the  most  favorable  breezes  told  no  tale,  I 
knew  that  they  had  got  the  last  drone  of  them 
all  safely  into  the  Middlesex  hive,  and  that  now 
their  minds  were  bent  on  the  honey  with  which 
it  was  smeared. 

I  felt  proud  to  know  that  the  liberties  of  Mas 
sachusetts  and  of  our  fatherland  were  in  such 
safe  keeping ;  and  as  I  turned  to  my  hoeing  again 
I  was  filled  with  an  inexpressible  confidence, 


and  pursued  my  labor  cheerfully  with  a  calm 
trust  in  the  future. 

When  there  were  several  bands  of  musicians, 
it  sounded  as  if  all  the  village  was  a  vast  bellows, 
and  all  the  buildings  expanded  and  collapsed 
alternately  with  a  din.  But  sometimes  it  was  a 
really  noble  and  inspiring  strain  that  reached 
these  woods,  and  the  trumpet  that  sings  of  fame, 
and  I  felt  as  if  I  could  spit  a  Mexican  with  a 
good  relish,  —  for  why  should  we  always  stand 
for  trifles  ?  —  and  looked  round  for  a  wood- 
chuck  or  a  skunk  to  exercise  my  chivalry  upon. 
These  martial  strains  seemed  as  far  away  as 
Palestine,  and  reminded  me  of  a  march  of 
crusaders  in  the  horizon,  with  a  slight  tan 
tivy  and  tremulous  motion  of  the  elm-tree 
tops  which  overhang  the  village.  This  was  one 
of  the  great  days;  though  the  sky  had  from 
my  clearing  only  the  same  everlastingly  great 
look  that  it  wears  daily,  and  I  saw  no  differ 
ence  in  it. 

It  was  a  singular  experience,  that  long  ac 
quaintance  which  I  cultivated  with  beans,  what 
with  planting,  and  hoeing,  and  harvesting,  and 
threshing,  and  picking  over,  and  selling  them,  - 
the  last  was  the  hardest  of  all,  —  I  might  add 
eating,  for  I  did  taste.  I  was  determined  to 
know  beans.  When  they  were  growing,  I  used 
to  hoe  from  five  o'clock  in  the  morning  till  noon, 
and  commonly  spent  the  rest  of  the  day  about 


other  affairs.  Consider  the  intimate  and  curi 
ous  acquaintance  one  makes  with  various  kinds 
of  weeds,  —  it  will  bear  some  iteration  in  the 
account,  for  there  was  no  little  iteration  in  the 
labor,  —  disturbing  their  delicate  organizations 
so  ruthlessly,  and  making  such  invidious  dis 
tinctions  with  his  hoe,  levelling  whole  ranks 
of  one  species,  and  sedulously  cultivating  an 
other.  That 's  Roman  wormwood,  —  that 's  pig 
weed,  —  that 's  sorrel,  —  that 's  piper-grass,  — 
have  at  him,  chop  him  up,  turn  his  roots  up 
ward  to  the  sun,  don't  let  him  have  a  fibre  in  the 
shade,  if  you  do  he  '11  turn  himself  t'other  side 
up  and  be  as  green  as  a  leek  in  two  days.  A 
long  war,  not  with  cranes,  but  with  weeds,  those 
Trojans  who  had  sun  and  rain  and  dews  on  their 
side.  Daily  the  beans  saw  me  come  to  their 
rescue  armed  with  a  hoe,  and  thin  the  ranks  of 
their  enemies,  filling  up  the  trenches  with  weedy 
dead.  Many  a  lusty  crest- waving  Hector,  that 
towered  a  whole  foot  above  his  crowding  com 
rades,  fell  before  my  weapon  and  rolled  in  the 

Those  summer  days  which  some  of  my  con 
temporaries  devoted  to  the  fine  arts  in  Boston 
and  Rome,  and  others  to  contemplation  in  India, 
and  others  to  trade  in  London  or  New  York,  I 
thus,  with  the  other  farmers  of  New  England, 
devoted  to  husbandry.  Not  that  I  wanted  beans 
to  eat,  for  I  am  by  nature  a  Pythagorean,  so  far 

214  WALDEN 

as  beans  are  concerned,  whether  they  mean 
porridge  or  voting,  and  exchanged  them  for 
rice;  but,  perchance,  as  some  must  work  in 
fields  if  only  for  the  sake  of  tropes  and  expres 
sion,  to  serve  a  parable-maker  one  day.  It  was 
on  the  whole  a  rare  amusement,  which,  con 
tinued  too  long,  might  have  become  a  dissipa 
tion.  Though  I  gave  them  no  manure,  and  did 
not  hoe  them  all  once,  I  hoed  them  unusually 
well  as  far  as  I  went,  and  was  paid  for  it  in  the 
end,  "there  being  in  truth,"  as  Evelyn  says,  "no 
compost  or  lactation  whatsoever  comparable  to 
this  continual  motion,  repastination,  and  turn 
ing  of  the  mould  with  the  spade."  "The  earth," 
he  adds  elsewhere,  "especially  if  fresh,  has  a 
certain  magnetism  in  it,  by  which  it  attracts  the 
salt,  power,  or  virtue  (call  it  either)  which  gives 
it  life,  and  is  the  logic  of  all  the  labor  and  stir 
we  keep  about  it,  to  sustain  us;  all  dungings 
and  other  sordid  temperings  being  but  the 
vicars  succedaneous  to  this  improvement." 
Moreover,  this  being  one  of  those  "worn-out 
and  exhausted  lay  fields  which  enjoy  their  sab 
bath,"  had  perchance,  as  Sir  Kenelm  Digby 
thinks  likely,  attracted  "vital  spirits"  from  the 
air.  I  harvested  twelve  bushels  of  beans. 

But  to  be  more  particular,  for  it  is  complained 
that  Mr.  Coleman  has  reported  chiefly  the  ex 
pensive  experiments  of  gentlemen  farmers,  my 
outgoes  were,  — 


For  a  hoe $0  54 

Ploughing,  harrowing,  and  furrowing  .  7  50     Too  much 

Beans  for  seed      3  12i 

Potatoes     "      l  33 

Peas            "       04° 

Turnip  seed 

White  line  for  crow  fence 0  °2 

Horse  cultivator  and  boy  three  hours  ...  1  00 

Horse  and  cart  to  get  crop 0  75 

In  all      .  $1472j 

My  income  was  (patrem  familias  vendacem, 
non  emacem  esse  oportet),  from 

Nine  bushels  and  twelve  quarts  of  beans  sold      .    .    .  $16  94 

Five        "        large  potatoes 

Nine       "         small        "       225 

Grass l  °° 

Stalks °75 

In  all $2344 

Leaving  a  pecuniary  profit,  as  I  have  elsewhere  said,  of  $8.71  J. 

This  is  the  result  of  my  experience  in  raising 
beans.  Plant  the  common  small  white  bush 
bean  about  the  first  of  June,  in  rows  three  feet 
by  eighteen  inches  apart,  being  careful  to  select 
fresh  round  and  unmixed  seed.  First  look  out 
for  worms,  and  supply  vacancies  by  planting 
anew.  Then  look  out  for  woodchucks,  if  it  is 
an  exposed  place,  for  they  will  nibble  off  the 
earliest  tender  leaves  almost  clean  as  they  go; 
and  again,  when  the  young  tendrils  make  their 
appearance,  they  have  notice  of  it,  and  will 
shear  them  off  with  both  buds  and  young  pods, 

216  WALDEN 

sitting  erect  like  a  squirrel.  But  above  all, 
harvest  as  early  as  possible,  if  you  would  escape 
frosts  and  have  a  fair  and  salable  crop;  you 
may  save  much  loss  by  this  means. 

This  further  experience  also  I  gained.  I  said 
to  myself,  I  will  not  plant  beans  and  corn  with 
so  much  industry  another  summer,  but  such 
seeds,  if  the  seed  is  not  lost,  as  sincerity,  truth, 
simplicity,  faith,  innocence,  and  the  like,  and 
see  if  they  will  not  grow  in  this  soil,  even  with 
less  toil  and  manurance,  and  sustain  me,  for 
surely  it  has  not  been  exhausted  for  these  crops. 
Alas !  I  said  this  to  myself ;  but  now  another 
summer  is  gone,  and  another,  and  another,  and 
I  am  obliged  to  say  to  you,  Reader,  that  the 
seeds  which  I  planted,  if  indeed  they  were  the 
seeds  of  those  virtues,  were  wormeaten  or  had 
lost  their  vitality  and  so  did  not  come  up.  Com 
monly  men  will  only  be  brave  as  their  fathers 
were  brave,  or  timid.  This  generation  is  very 
sure  to  plant  corn  and  beans  each  new  year 
precisely  as  the  Indians  did  centuries  ago,  and 
taught  the  first  settlers  to  do,  as  if  there  were  a 
fate  in  it.  I  saw  an  old  man  the  other  day,  to  my 
astonishment,  making  the  holes  with  a  hoe  for 
the  seventieth  time  at  least,  and  not  for  himself 
to  lie  down  in !  But  why  should  not  the  New 
Englander  try  new  adventures,  and  not  lay  so 
much  stress  on  his  grain,  his  potato  and  grass 
crop,  and  his  orchards,  —  raise  other  crops 


than  these  ?  Why  concern  ourselves  so  much 
about  our  beans  for  seed,  and  not  be  concerned 
at  all  about  a  new  generation  of  men  ?  We 
should  really  be  fed  and  cheered  if  when  we  met 
a  man  we  were  sure  to  see  that  some  of  the 
qualities  which  I  have  named,  which  we  all 
prize  more  than  those  other  productions,  but 
which  are  for  the  most  part  broadcast  and  float 
ing  in  the  air,  had  taken  root  and  grown  in  him. 
Here  comes  such  a  subtile  and  ineffable  quality, 
for  instance,  as  truth  or  justice,  though  the 
slightest  amount  or  new  variety  of  it,  along  the 
road.  Our  ambassadors  should  be  instructed  to 
send  home  such  seeds  as  these,  and  Congress 
help  to  distribute  them  over  all  the  land.  We 
should  never  stand  upon  ceremony  with  sincerity. 
We  should  never  cheat  and  insult  and  banish 
one  another  by  our  meanness,  if  there  were 
present  the  kernel  of  worth  and  friendliness. 
We  should  not  meet  thus  in  haste.  Most  men 
I  do  not  meet  at  all,  for  they  seem  not  to  have 
time;  they  are  busy  about  their  beans.  We 
would  not  deal  with  a  man  thus  plodding  ever, 
leaning  on  a  hoe  or  a  spade  as  a  staff  between 
his  work,  not  as  a  mushroom,  but  partially  risen 
out  of  the  earth,  something  more  than  erect, 
like  swallows  alighted  and  walking  on  the 
ground : — 

"And  as  he  spake,  his  wings  would  now  and  then 
Spread,  as  he  meant  to  fly,  then  close  again," 

218  WALDEN 

so  that  we  should  suspect  that  we  might  be  con 
versing  with  an  angel.  Bread  may  not  always 
nourish  us;  but  it  always  does  us  good,  it  even 
takes  stiffness  out  of  our  joints,  and  makes  us 
supple  and  buoyant,  when  we  knew  not  what 
ailed  us,  to  recognize  any  generosity  in  man  or 
Nature,  to  share  any  unmixed  and  heroic  joy. 

Ancient  poetry  and  mythology  suggest,  at 
least,  that  husbandry  was  once  a  sacred  art; 
but  it  is  pursued  with  irreverent  haste  and  heed- 
lessness  by  us,  our  object  being  to  have  large 
farms  and  large  crops  merely.  We  have  no 
festival,  nor  procession,  nor  ceremony,  not  ex 
cepting  our  Cattle-shows  and  so-called  Thanks 
givings,  by  which  the  farmer  expresses  a  sense 
of  the  sacredness  of  his  calling,  or  is  reminded 
of  its  sacred  origin.  It  is  the  premium  and  the 
feast  which  tempt  him.  He  sacrifices  not  to 
Ceres  and  the  Terrestrial  Jove,  but  to  the  infernal 
Plutus  rather.  By  avarice  and  selfishness,  and 
a  grovelling  habit,  from  which  none  of  us  is  free, 
of  regarding  the  soil  as  property,  or  the  means 
of  acquiring  property  chiefly,  the  landscape  is 
deformed,  husbandry  is  degraded  with  us,  and 
the  farmer  leads  the  meanest  of  lives.  He 
knows  Nature  but  as  a  robber.  Cato  says  that 
the  profits  of  agriculture  are  particularly  pious 
or  just  (maximeque  plus  qucestus),  and  according 
to  Varro,  the  old  Romans  "called  the  same 
earth  Mother  and  Ceres,  and  thought  that  they 


who  cultivated  it  led  a  pious  and  useful  life,  and 
that  they  alone  were  left  of  the  race  of  King 

We  are  wont  to  forget  that  the  sun  looks  on 
our  cultivated  fields  and  on  the  prairies  and 
forests  without  distinction.  They  all  reflect  and 
absorb  his  rays  alike,  and  the  former  make  but 
a  small  part  of  the  glorious  picture  which  he 
beholds  in  his  daily  course.  In  his  view  the  earth 
is  all  equally  cultivated  like  a  garden.  There 
fore  we  should  receive  the  benefit  of  his  light 
and  heat  with  a  corresponding  trust  and  mag 
nanimity.  What  though  I  value  the  seed  of 
these  beans,  and  harvest  that  in  the  fall  of  the 
year?  This  broad  field  which  I  have  looked 
at  so  long  looks  not  to  me  as  the  principal  culti 
vator,  but  away  from  me  to  influences  more 
genial  to  it,  which  water  and  make  it  green. 
These  beans  have  results  which  are  not  harvested 
by  me.  Do  they  not  grow  for  woodchucks 
partly  ?  The  ear  of  wheat  (in  Latin  spica, 
obsoletely  speca,  from  spe,  hope)  should  not  be 
the  only  hope  of  the  husbandman;  its  kernel 
or  grain  (granum,  from  gerendo,  bearing)  is  not 
all  that  it  bears.  How,  then,  can  our  harvest 
fail  ?  Shall  I  not  rejoice  also  at  the  abundance 
of  the  weeds  whose  seeds  are  the  granary  of  the 
birds  ?  It  matters  little  comparatively  whether 
the  fields  fill  the  farmer's  barns.  The  true 
husbandman  will  cease  from  anxiety,  as  the 

220  WALDEN 

squirrels  manifest  no  concern  whether  the  woods 
will  bear  chestnuts  this  year  or  not,  and  finish 
his  labor  with  every  day,  relinquishing  all  claim 
to  the  produce  of  his  fields,  and  sacrificing  in  his 
mind  not  only  his  first  but  his  last  fruits  also. 



AFTER  hoeing,  or  perhaps  reading  and 
writing,  in  the  forenoon,  I  usually  bathed 
again  in  the  pond,  swimming  across  one 
of  its  coves  for  a  stint,  and  washed  the  dust  of 
labor  from  my  person,  or  smoothed  out  the  last 
wrinkle  which  study  had  made,  and  for  the 
afternoon  was  absolutely  free.  Every  day  or 
two  I  strolled  to  the  village  to  hear  some  of  the 
gossip  which  is  incessantly  going  on  there, 
circulating  either  from  mouth  to  mouth,  or 
from  newspaper  to  newspaper,  and  which,  taken 
in  homoeopathic  doses,  was  really  as  refreshing 
in  its  way  as  the  rustle  of  leaves  and  the  peep 
ing  of  frogs.  As  I  walked  in  the  woods  to  see 
the  birds  and  squirrels,  so  I  walked  in  the  village 
to  see  the  men  and  boys;  instead  of  the  wind 
among  the  pines  I  heard  the  carts  rattle.  In 
one  direction  from  my  house  there  was  a  colony 
of  muskrats  in  the  river  meadows;  under  the 
grove  of  elms  and  buttonwoods  in  the  other 
horizon  was  a  village  of  busy  men,  as  curious 
to  me  as  if  they  had  been  prairie  dogs,  each 
sitting  at  the  mouth  of  its  burrow,  or  running 

222  WALDEN 

over  to  a  neighbor's  to  gossip.  I  went  there  fre 
quently  to  observe  their  habits.  The  village 
appeared  to  me  a  great  news  room ;  and  on 
one  side  to  support  it,  as  once  at  Redding  & 
Company's  on  State  Street,  they  kept  nuts  and 
raisins,  or  salt  and  meal  and  other  groceries. 
Some  have  such  a  vast  appetite  for  the  former 
commodity,  that  is,  the  news,  and  such  sound 
digestive  organs,  that  they  can  sit  forever  in 
public  avenues  without  stirring,  and  let  it  simmer 
and  whisper  through  them  like  the  Etesian  winds, 
or  as  if  inhaling  ether,  it  only  producing  numb 
ness  and  insensibility  to  pain,  —  otherwise  it 
would  be  often  painful  to  hear,  —  without  affect 
ing  the  consciousness.  I  hardly  ever  failed, 
when  I  rambled  through  the  village,  to  see  a 
row  of  such  worthies,  either  sitting  on  a  ladder 
sunning  themselves,  with  their  bodies  inclined 
forward  and  their  eyes  glancing  along  the  line 
this  way  and  that,  from  time  to  time,  with  a 
voluptuous  expression,  or  else  leaning  against 
a  barn  with  their  hands  in  their  pockets,  like 
caryatides,  as  if  to  prop  it  up.  They,  being 
commonly  out  of  doors,  heard  whatever  was  in 
the  wind.  These  are  the  coarsest  mills,  in 
which  all  gossip  is  first  rudely  digested  or 
cracked  up  before  it  is  emptied  into  finer  and 
more  delicate  hoppers  within  doors.  I  observed 
that  the  vitals  of  the  village  were  the  grocery, 
the  bar-room,  the  post-office,  and  the  bank; 


and,  as  a  necessary  part  of  the  machinery,  they 
kept  a  bell,  a  big  gun,  and  a  fire-engine,  at  con 
venient  places ;  and  the  houses  were  so  arranged 
as  to  make  the  most  of  mankind,  in  lanes  and 
fronting  one  another,  so  that  every  traveller 
had  to  run  the  gantlet,  and  every  man,  woman, 
and  child  might  get  a  lick  at  him.  Of  course, 
those  who  were  stationed  nearest  to  the  head 
of  the  line,  where  they  could  most  see  and  be 
seen,  and  have  the  first  blow  at  him,  paid  the 
highest  prices  for  their  places;  and  the  few 
straggling  inhabitants  in  the  outskirts,  where 
long  gaps  in  the  line  began  to  occur,  and  the 
traveller  could  get  over  walls  or  turn  aside  into 
cow  paths,  and  so  escape,  paid  a  very  slight 
ground  or  window  tax.  Signs  were  hung  out 
on  all  sides  to  allure  him;  some  to  catch  him 
by  the  appetite,  as  the  tavern  and  victualling 
cellar;  some  by  the  fancy,  as  the  dry  goods 
store  and  the  jeweller's;  and  others  by  the  hair 
or  the  feet  or  the  skirts,  as  the  barber,  the  shoe 
maker,  or  the  tailor.  Besides,  there  was  a  still 
more  terrible  standing  invitation  to  call  at 
every  one  of  these  houses,  and  company  expected 
about  these  times.  For  the  most  part  I  escaped 
wonderfully  from  these  dangers,  either  by  pro 
ceeding  at  once  boldly  and  without  deliberation 
to  the  goal,  as  is  recommended  to  those  who  run 
the  gantlet,  or  by  keeping  my  thoughts  on  high 
things,  like  Orpheus,  who,  "loudly  singing  the 


praises  of  the  gods  to  his  lyre,  drowned  the 
voices  of  the  Sirens,  and  kept  out  of  danger." 
Sometimes  I  bolted  suddenly,  and  nobody 
could  tell  my  whereabouts,  for  I  did  not  stand 
much  about  gracefulness,  and  never  hesitated 
at  a  gap  in  the  fence.  I  was  even  accustomed 
to  make  an  irruption  into  some  houses,  where 
I  was  well  entertained,  and  after  learning  the 
kernels  and  very  last  sieve-ful  of  news,  what 
had  subsided,  the  prospects  of  war  and  peace, 
and  whether  the  world  was  likely  to  hold  to 
gether  much  longer,  I  was  let  out  through  the 
rear  avenues,  and  so  escaped  to  the  woods  again. 
It  was  very  pleasant,  when  I  stayed  late  in 
town,  to  launch  myself  into  the  night,  especially 
if  it  was  dark  and  tempestuous,  and  set  sail 
from  some  bright  village  parlor  or  lecture  room, 
with  a  bag  of  rye  or  Indian  meal  upon  my 
shoulder,  for  my  snug  harbor  in  the  woods, 
having  made  all  tight  without  and  withdrawn 
under  hatches  with  a  merry  crew  of  thoughts, 
leaving  only  my  outer  man  at  the  helm,  or  even 
tying  up  the  helm  when  it  was  plain  sailing.  I 
had  many  a  genial  thought  by  the  cabin  fire 
"as  I  sailed."  I  was  never  cast  away  nor  dis 
tressed  in  any  weather,  though  I  encountered 
some  severe  storms.  It  is  darker  in  the  woods, 
even  in  common  nights,  than  most  suppose. 
I  frequently  had  to  look  up  at  the  opening  be 
tween  the  trees  above  the  path  in  order  to  learn 

A  winter  road  near  Thoreau's  cabin 


my  route,  and,  where  there  was  no  cart-path, 
to  feel  with  my  feet  the  faint  track  which  I  had 
worn,  or  steer  by  the  known  relation  of  partic 
ular  trees  which  I  felt  with  my  hands,  passing 
between  two  pines  for  instance,  not  more  than 
eighteen  inches  apart,  in  the  midst  of  the  woods, 
invariably  in  the  darkest  night.  Sometimes, 
after  coming  home  thus  late  in  a  dark  and 
muggy  night,  when  my  feet  felt  the  path  which 
my  eyes  could  not  see,  dreaming  and  absent- 
minded  all  the  way,  until  I  was  aroused  by  hav 
ing  to  raise  my  hand  to  lift  the  latch,  I  have  not 
been  able  to  recall  a  single  step  of  my  walk,  and 
I  have  thought  that  perhaps  my  body  would 
find  its  way  home  if  its  master  should  forsake 
it,  as  the  hand  finds  its  way  to  the  mouth  with 
out  assistance.  Several  times,  when  a  visitor 
chanced  to  stay  into  evening,  and  it  proved  a 
dark  night,  I  was  obliged  to  conduct  him  to  the 
cart-path  in  the  rear  of  the  house,  and  then  point 
out  to  him  the  direction  he  was  to  pursue,  and 
in  keeping  which  he  was  to  be  guided  rather  by 
his  feet  than  his  eyes.  One  very  dark  night  I 
directed  thus  on  their  way  two  young  men  who 
had  been  fishing  in  the  pond.  They  lived  about 
a  mile  off  through  the  woods,  and  were  quite 
used  to  the  route.  A  day  or  two  after  one  of 
them  told  me  that  they  wandered  about  the 
greater  part  of  the  night,  close  by  their  own 
premises,  and  did  not  get  home  till  toward 

226  WALDEN 

morning,  by  which  time,  as  there  had  been 
several  heavy  showers  in  the  meanwhile,  and 
the  leaves  were  very  wet,  they  were  drenched 
to  their  skins.  I  have  heard  of  many  going  astray 
even  in  the  village  streets,  when  the  darkness 
was  so  thick  that  you  could  cut  it  with  a  knife, 
as  the  saying  is.  Some  who  live  in  the  out 
skirts,  having  come  to  town  a-shopping  in  their 
wagons,  have  been  obliged  to  put  up  for  the 
night;  and  gentlemen  and  ladies  making  a  call 
have  gone  half  a  mile  out  of  their  way,  feeling 
the  sidewalk  only  with  their  feet,  and  not  know 
ing  when  they  turned.  It  is  a  surprising  and 
memorable,  as  well  as  valuable  experience,  to 
be  lost  in  the  woods  any  time.  Often  in  a  snow 
storm,  even  by  day,  one  will  come  out  upon  a 
well-known  road  and  yet  find  it  impossible  to 
tell  which  way  leads  to  the  village.  Though  he 
knows  that  he  has  travelled  it  a  thousand  times, 
he  cannot  recognize  a  feature  in  it,  but  it  is  as 
strange  to  him  as  if  it  were  a  road  in  Siberia. 
By  night,  of  course,  the  perplexity  is  infinitely 
greater.  In  our  most  trivial  walks,  we  are  con 
stantly,  though  unconsciously,  steering  like  pilots 
by  certain  well-known  beacons  and  head-lands, 
and  if  we  go  beyond  our  usual  course  we  still 
carry  in  our  minds  the  bearing  of  some  neigh 
boring  cape ;  and  not  till  we  are  completely  lost, 
or  turned  round,  —  for  a  man  needs  only  to  be 
turned  round  once  with  his  eyes  shut  in  this 


world  to  be  lost,  —  do  we  appreciate  the  vast- 
ness  and  strangeness  of  Nature.  Every  man 
has  to  learn  the  points  of  compass  again  as  often 
as  he  awakes,  whether  from  sleep  or  any  abstrac 
tion.  Not  till  we  are  lost,  in  other  words,  not 
till  we  have  lost  the  world,  do  we  begin  to  find 
ourselves,  and  realize  where  we  are  and  the 
infinite  extent  of  our  relations. 

One  afternoon,  near  the  end  of  the  first 
summer,  when  I  went  to  the  village  to  get  a  shoe 
from  the  cobbler's,  I  was  seized  and  put  into 
jail,  because,  as  I  have  elsewhere  related,  I  did 
not  pay  a  tax  to,  or  recognize  the  authority  of, 
the  state,  which  buys  and  sells  men,  women, 
and  children,  like  cattle  at  the  door  of  its  senate- 
house.  I  had  gone  down  to  the  woods  for  other 
purposes.  But,  wherever  a  man  goes,  men  will 
pursue  and  paw  him  with  their  dirty  institu 
tions,  and,  if  they  can,  constrain  him  to 'belong 
to  their  desperate  odd-fellow  society.  It  is  true, 
I  might  have  resisted  forcibly  with  more  or  less 
effect,  might  have  run  "amok"  against  society; 
but  I  preferred  that  society  should  run  "amok" 
against  me,  it  being  the  desperate  party.  How 
ever,  I  was  released  the  next  day,  obtained  my 
mended  shoe,  and  returned  to  the  woods  in 
season  to  get  my  dinner  of  huckleberries  on  Fair- 
Haven  Hill.  I  was  never  molested  by  any 
person  but  those  who  represented  the  state. 
I  had  no  lock  nor  bolt  but  for  the  desk  which 

228  WALDEN 

held  my  papers,  not  even  a  nail  to  put  over  my 
latch  or  windows.  I  never  fastened  my  door 
night  or  day,  though  I  was  to  be  absent  several 
days;  not  even  when  the  next  fall  I  spent  a 
fortnight  in  the  woods  of  Maine.  And  yet  my 
house  was  more  respected  than  if  it  had  been 
surrounded  by  a  file  of  soldiers.  The  tired 
rambler  could  rest  and  warm  himself  by  my 
fire,  the  literary  amuse  himself  with  the  few 
books  on  my  table,  or  the  curious,  by  opening 
my  closet  door,  see  what  was  left  of  my  dinner, 
and  what  prospect  I  had  of  a  supper.  Yet, 
though  many  people  of  every  class  came  this 
way  to  the  pond,  I  suffered  no  serious  incon 
venience  from  these  sources,  and  I  never  missed 
anything  but  one  small  book,  a  volume  of  Homer, 
which  perhaps  was  improperly  gilded,  and  this 
I  trust  a  soldier  of  our  camp  has  found  by  this 
time.  I  am  convinced  that  if  all  men  were  to 
live  as  simply  as  I  then  did,  thieving  and  rob 
bery  would  be  unknown.  These  take  place  only 
in  communities  where  some  have  got  more  than 
is  sufficient  while  others  have  not  enough.  The 
Pope's  Homers  would  soon  get  properly  dis 
tributed.  — 

"Nee  bella  fuerunt, 
,  Faginus  astabat  dum  scyphus  ante  dapes." 

"Nor  wars  did  men  molest, 
When  only  beechen  bowls  were  in  request." 


:<You  who  govern  public  affairs,  what  need  have 
you  to  employ  punishments  ?  Love  virtue,  and 
the  people  will  be  virtuous.  The  virtues  of  a 
superior  man  are  like  the  wind ;  the  virtues  of  a 
common  man  are  like  the  grass ;  the  grass,  when 
the  wind  passes  over  it,  bends." 



SOMETIMES,  having  had  a  surfeit  of  hu 
man  society  and  gossip,  and  worn  out 
all  my  village  friends,  I  rambled  still 
farther  westward  than  I  habitually  dwell,  into 
yet  more  unfrequented  parts  of  the  town,  "to 
fresh  woods  and  pastures  new,"  or,  while  the 
sun  was  setting,  made  my  supper  of  huckle 
berries  and  blueberries  on  Fair-Haven  Hill,  and 
laid  up  a  store  for  several  days.  The  fruits  do 
not  yield  their  true  flavor  to  the  purchaser  of 
them,  nor  to  him  who  raises  them  for  the  market. 
There  is  but  one  way  to  obtain  it,  yet  few  take 
that  way.  If  you  would  know  the  flavor  of 
huckleberries,  ask  the  cow-boy  or  the  partridge. 
It  is  a  vulgar  error  to  suppose  that  you  have 
tasted  huckleberries  who  never  plucked  them. 
A  huckleberry  never  reaches  Boston;  they  have 
not  been  known  there  since  they  grew  on  her 
three  hills.  The  ambrosialand  essential  part  of 
the  fruit  is  lost  with  the  bloom  which  is  rubbed  off 
in  the  market  cart,  and  they  become  mere  prov 
ender.  As  long  as  Eternal  Justice  reigns,  not  one 

In  the  woods  near  Fair-Haven  Hill 

THE   PONDS  231 

innocent  huckleberry  can  be  transported  thither 
from  the  country's  hills. 

Occasionally,  after  my  hoeing  was  done  for  the 
day,  I  joined  some  impatient  companion  who 
had  been  fishing  on  the  pond  since  morning,  as 
silent  and  motionless  as  a  duck  or  a  floating  leaf, 
and,  after  practising  various  kinds  of  philosophy, 
had  concluded  commonly,  by  the  time  I  arrived, 
that  he  belonged  to  the  ancient  sect  of  Coeno 
bites.  There  was  one  older  man,  an  excellent 
fisher  and  skilled  in  all  kinds  of  woodcraft,  who 
was  pleased  to  look  upon  my  house  as  a  building 
erected  for  the  convenience  of  fishermen ;  and  I 
was  equally  pleased  when  he  sat  in  my  doorway 
to  arrange  his  lines.  Once  in  a  while  we  sat  to 
gether  on  the  pond,  he  at  one  end  of  the  boat, 
and  I  at  the  other ;  but  not  many  words  passed 
between  us,  for  he  had  grown  deaf  in  his  later 
years,  but  he  occasionally  hummed  a  psalm, 
which  harmonized  well  enough  with  my  philos 
ophy.  Our  intercourse  was  thus  altogether  one 
of  unbroken  harmony,  far  more  pleasing  to  re 
member  than  if  it  had  been  carried  on  by  speech. 
When,  as  was  commonly  the  case,  I  had  none  to 
commune  with,  I  used  to  raise  the  echoes  by 
striking  with  a  paddle  on  the  side  of  my  boat, 
filling  the  surrounding  woods  with  circling  and 
dilating  sound,  stirring  them  up  as  the  keeper  of 
a  menagerie  his  wild  beasts,  until  I  elicited  a 
growl  from  every  wooded  vale  and  hill  side. 

232  WALDEN 

In  warm  evenings  I  frequently  sat  in  the  boat 
playing  the  flute,  and  saw  the  perch,  which  I 
seemed  to  have  charmed,  hovering  around  me, 
and  the  moon  travelling  over  the  ribbed  bottom, 
which  was  strewed  with  the  wrecks  of  the  forest. 
Formerly  I  had  come  to  this  pond  adventurously, 
from  time  to  time,  in  dark  summer  nights,  with  a 
companion,  and  making  a  fire  close  to  the  water's 
edge,  which  we  thought  attracted  the  fishes,  we 
caught  pouts  with  a  bunch  of  worms  strung  on  a 
thread ;  and  when  we  had  done,  far  in  the  night, 
threw  the  burning  brands  high  into  the  air  like 
sky-rockets,  which,  coming  down  into  the  pond, 
were  quenched  with  a  loud  hissing,  and  we  were 
suddenly  groping  in  total  darkness.  Through 
this,  whistling  a  tune,  we  took  our  way  to  the 
haunts  of  men  again.  But  now  I  had  made  my 
home  by  the  shore. 

Sometimes,  after  staying  in  a  village  parlor 
till  the  family  had  all  retired,  I  have  returned  to 
the  woods,  and,  partly  with  a  view  to  the  next 
day's  dinner,  spent  the  hours  of  midnight  fishing 
from  a  boat  by  moonlight,  serenaded  by  owls 
and  foxes,  and  hearing,  from  time  to  time,  the 
creaking  note  of  some  unknown  bird  close  at 
hand.  These  experiences  were  very  memorable 
and  valuable  to  me,  —  anchored  in  forty  feet  of 
water,  and  twenty  or  thirty  rods  from  the  shore, 
surrounded  sometimes  by  thousands  of  small 
perch  and  shiners,  dimpling  the  surface  with 

THE  PONDS  233 

their  tails  in  the  moonlight,  and  communicating 
by  a  long  flaxen  line  with  mysterious  nocturnal 
fishes  which  had  their  dwelling  forty  feet  below, 
or  sometimes  dragging  sixty  feet  of  line  about  the 
pond  as  I  drifted  in  the  gentle  night  breeze,  now 
and  then  feeling  a  slight  vibration  along  it,  in 
dicative  of  some  life  prowling  about  its  extrem 
ity,  of  dull  uncertain  blundering  purpose  there, 
and  slow  to  make  up  its  mind.  At  length  you 
slowly  raise,  pulling  hand  over  hand,  some  horned 
pout  squeaking  and  squirming  to  the  upper 
air.  It  was  very  queer,  especially  in  dark  nights, 
when  your  thoughts  had  wandered  to  vast  and 
cosmogonal  themes  in  other  spheres,  to  feel  this 
faint  jerk,  which  came  to  interrupt  your  dreams 
and  link  you  to  Nature  again.  It  seemed  as  if  I 
might  next  cast  my  line  upward  into  the  air,  as 
well  as  downward  into  this  element  which  was 
scarcely  more  dense.  Thus  I  caught  two  fishes 
as  it  were  with  one  hook. 

The  scenery  of  Walden  is  on  a  humble  scale, 
and,  though  very  beautiful,  does  not  approach  to 
grandeur,  nor  can  it  much  concern  one  who  has 
not  long  frequented  it,  or  lived  by  its  shore ;  yet 
this  pond  is  so  remarkable  for  its  depth  and 
purity  as  to  merit  a  particular  description.  It 
is  a  clear  and  deep  green  well,  half  a  mile  long 
and  a  mile  and  three  quarters  in  circumference, 
and  contains  about  sixty-one  and  a  half  acres; 
a  perennial  spring  in  the  midst  of  pine  and  oak 

234  WALDEN 

woods,  without  any  visible  inlet  or  outlet  except 
by  the  clouds  and  evaporation.  The  surrounding 
hills  rise  abruptly  from  the  water  to  the  height 
of  forty  to  eighty  feet,  though  on  the  southeast 
and  east  they  attain  to  about  one  hundred  and 
one  hundred  and  fifty  feet  respectively,  within  a 
quarter  and  a  third  of  a  mile.  They  are  exclu 
sively  woodland.  All  our  Concord  waters  have 
two  colors  at  least,  one  when  viewed  at  a  dis 
tance,  and  another,  more  proper,  close  at  hand. 
The  first  depends  more  on  the  light,  and  follows 
the  sky.  In  clear  weather,  in  summer,  they  ap 
pear  blue  at  a  little  distance,  especially  if  agitated, 
and  at  a  great  distance  all  appear  alike.  In  stormy 
weather  they  are  sometimes  of  a  dark  slate  color. 
The  sea,  however,  is  said  to  be  blue  one  day  and 
green  another  without  any  perceptible  change  in 
the  atmosphere.  I  have  seen  our  river,  when, 
the  landscape  being  covered  with  snow,  both 
water  and  ice  were  almost  as  green  as  grass. 
Some  consider  blue  "to  be  the  color  of  pure 
water,  whether  liquid  or  solid."  But,  looking 
directly  down  into  our  waters  from  a  boat,  they 
are  seen  to  be  of  very  different  colors.  Walden  is 
blue  at  one  time  and  green  at  another,  even  from 
the  same  point  of  view.  Lying  between  the  earth 
and  the  heavens,  it  partakes  of  the  color  of  both. 
Viewed  from  a  hill  top  it  reflects  the  color  of  the 
sky,  but  near  at  hand  it  is  of  a  yellowish  tint 
next  the  shore  where  you  can  see  the  sand,  then 

THE   PONDS  235 

alight  green,  which  gradually  deepens  to  a  uni 
form  dark  green  in  the  body  of  the  pond.  In  some 
lights,  viewed  even  from  a  hill  top,  it  is  of  a 
vivid  green  next  the  shore.  Some  have  referred 
this  to  the  reflection  of  the  verdure;  but  it  is 
equally  green  there  against  the  railroad  sand 
bank,  and  in  the  spring,  before  the  leaves  are  ex 
panded,  and  it  may  be  simply  the  result  of  the 
prevailing  blue  mixed  with  the  yellow  of  the  sand. 
Such  is  the  color  of  its  iris.  This  is  that  portion, 
also,  where  in  the  spring,  the  ice  being  warmed 
by  the  heat  of  the  sun  reflected  from  the  bottom, 
and  also  transmitted  through  the  earth,  melts 
first  and  forms  a  narrow  canal  about  the  still 
frozen  middle.  Like  the  rest  of  our  waters,  when 
much  agitated,  in  clear  weather,  so  that  the 
surface  of  the  waves  may  reflect  the  sky  at  the 
right  angle,  or  because  there  is  more  light  mixed 
with  it,  it  appears  at  a  little  distance  of  a  darker 
blue  than  the  sky  itself ;  and  at  such  a  time,  being 
on  its  surface,  and  looking  with  divided  vision, 
so  as  to  see  the  reflection,  I  have  discerned  a 
matchless  and  indescribable  light  blue,  such  as 
watered  or  changeable  silks  and  sword  blades 
suggest,  more  cerulean  than  the  sky  itself,  alter 
nating  with  the  original  dark  green  on  the  oppo 
site  sides  of  the  waves,  which  last  appeared  but 
muddy  in  comparison.  It  is  a  vitreous  greenish 
blue,  as  I  remember  it,  like  those  patches  of  the 
winter  sky  seen  through  cloud  vistas  in  the  west 

236  WALDEN 

before  sundown.  Yet  a  single  glass  of  its  water 
held  up  to  the  light  is  as  colorless  as  an  equal 
quantity  of  air.  It  is  well-known  that  a  large 
plate  of  glass  will  have  a  green  tint,  owing,  as 
the  makers  say,  to  its  "body,"  but  a  small  piece 
of  the  same  will  be  colorless.  How  large  a  body 
of  Walden  water  would  be  required  to  reflect  a 
green  tint  I  have  never  proved.  The  water  of 
our  river  is  black  or  a  very  dark  brown  to  one 
looking  directly  down  on  it,  and  like  that  of  most 
ponds,  imparts  to  the  body  of  one  bathing  in  it 
a  yellowish  tinge;  but  this  water  is  of  such 
crystalline  purity  that  the  body  of  the  bather 
appears  of  an  alabaster  whiteness,  still  more  un 
natural,  which,  as  the  limbs  are  magnified  and 
distorted  withal,  produces  a  monstrous  effect, 
making  fit  studies  for  a  Michael  Angelo. 

The  Water  is  so  transparent  that  the  bottom 
can  easily  be  discerned  at  the  depth  of  twenty- 
five  or  thirty  feet.  Paddling  over  it,  you  may  see 
many  feet  beneath  the  surface  the  schools  of 
perch  and  shiners,  perhaps  only  an  inch  long, 
yet  the  former  easily  distinguished  by  their 
transverse  bars,  and  you  think  that  they  must 
be  ascetic  fish  that  find  a  subsistence  there. 
Once,  in  the  winter,  many  years  ago,  when  I  had 
been  cutting  holes  through  the  ice  in  order  to 
catch  pickerel,  as  I  stepped  ashore  I  tossed  my 
axe  back  on  to  the  ice,  but,  as  if  some  evil  genius 
had  directed  it,  it  slid  four  or  five  rods  directly 

THE  PONDS  237 

into  one  of  the  holes,  where  the  water  was  twenty- 
five  feet  deep.  Out  of  curiosity,  I  lay  down  on  the 
ice  and  looked  through  the  hole,  until  I  saw  the 
axe  a  little  on  one  side,  standing  on  its  head,  with 
its  helve  erect  and  gently  swaying  to  and  fro  with 
the  pulse  of  the  pond;  and  there  it  might  have 
stood  erect  and  swaying  till  in  the  course  of  time 
the  handle  rotted  off,  if  I  had  not  disturbed  it. 
Making  another  hole  directly  over  it  with  an  ice 
chisel  which  I  had,  and  cutting  down  the  longest 
birch  which  I  could  find  in  the  neighborhood 
with  my  knife,  I  made  a  slip-noose,  which  I 
attached  to  its  end,  and,  letting  it  down  care 
fully,  passed  it  over  the  knob  of  the  handle,  and 
drew  it  by  a  line  along  the  birch,  and  so  pulled 
the  axe  out  again. 

The  shore  is  composed  of  a  belt  of  smooth 
rounded  white  stones  like  paving  stones,  except 
ing  one  or  two  short  sand  beaches,  and  is  so  steep 
that  in  many  places  a  single  leap  will  carry  you 
into  water  over  your  head ;  and  were  it  not  for  its 
remarkable  transparency,  that  would  be  the  last 
to  be  seen  of  its  bottom  till  it  rose  on  the  oppo 
site  side.  Some  think  it  is  bottomless.  It  is  no 
where  muddy,  and  a  casual  observer  would  say 
that  there  were  no  weeds  at  all  in  it ;  and  of  notice 
able  plants,  except  in  the  little  meadows  recently 
overflowed,  which  do  not  properly  belong  to  it, 
a  closer  scrutiny  does  not  detect  a  flag  nor  a  bul 
rush,  nor  even  a  lily,  yellow  or  white,  but  only  a 

238  WALDEN 

few  small  heart-leaves  and  potamogetons,  and 
perhaps  a  water-target  or  two ;  all  which  however 
a  bather  might  not  perceive ;  and  these  plants  are 
clean  and  bright  like  the  element  they  grow  in. 
The  stones  extend  a  rod  or  two  into  the  water, 
and  then  the  bottom  is  pure  sand,  except  in  the 
deepest  parts,  where  there  is  usually  a  little 
sediment,  probably  from  the  decay  of  the  leaves, 
which  have  been  wafted  on  to  it  so  many  succes 
sive  falls,  and  a  bright  green  weed  is  brought  up 
on  anchors  even  in  midwinter. 

We  have  one  other  pond  just  like  this,  White 
Pond  in  Nine  Acre  Corner,  about  two  and  a  half 
miles  westerly;  but,  though  I  am  acquainted 
with  most  of  the  ponds  within  a  dozen  miles  of 
this  centre,  I  do  not  know  a  third  of  this  pure 
and  well-like  character.  Successive  nations  per 
chance  have  drunk  at,  admired,  and  fathomed 
it,  and  passed  away,  and  still  its  water  is  green 
and  pellucid  as  ever.  Not  an  intermitting 
spring !  Perhaps  on  that  spring  morning  when 
Adam  and  Eve  were  driven  out  of  Eden  Walden 
Pond  was  already  in  existence,  and  even  then 
breaking  up  in  a  gentle  spring  rain  accompanied 
with  mist  and  a  southerly  wind,  and  covered 
with  myriads  of  ducks  and  geese,  which  had  not 
heard  of  the  fall,  when  still  such  pure  lakes  suf 
ficed  them.  Even  then  it  had  commenced  to 
rise  and  fall,  and  had  clarified  its  waters,  and 
colored  them  of  the  hue  they  now  wear,  and  ob- 

THE   PONDS  239 

tained  a  patent  of  heaven  to  be  the  only  Walden 
Pond  in  the  world  and  distiller  of  celestial  dews. 
Who  knows  in  how  many  unremembered  na 
tions'  literatures  this  has  been  the  Castalian 
Fountain?  or  what  nymphs  presided  over  it  in 
the  Golden  Age  ?  It  is  a  gem  of  the  first  water 
which  Concord  wears  in  her  coronet. 

Yet  perchance  the  first  who  came  to  this  well 
have  left  some  trace  of  their  footsteps.  I  have 
been  surprised  to  detect  encircling  the  pond, 
even  where  a  thick  wood  has  just  been  cut  down 
on  the  shore,  a  narrow  shelf -like  path  in  the  steep 
hill  side,  alternately  rising  and  falling,  approach 
ing  and  receding  from  the  water's  edge,  as  old 
probably  as  the  race  of  man  here,  worn  by  the 
feet  of  aboriginal  hunters,  and  still  from  time  to 
time  unwittingly  trodden  by  the  present  occu 
pants  of  the  land.  This  is  particularly  distinct 
to  one  standing  on  the  middle  of  the  pond  in 
winter,  just  after  a  light  snow  has  fallen,  appear 
ing  as  a  clear  undulating  white  line,  unobscured 
by  weeds  and  twigs,  and  very  obvious  a  quarter 
of  a  mile  off  in  many  places  where  in  summer  it  is 
hardly  distinguishable  close  at  hand.  The  snow 
reprints  it,  as  it  were,  in  clear  white  type  alto- 
relievo.  The  ornamented  grounds  of  villas  which 
will  one  day  be  built  here  may  still  preserve  some 
trace  of  this. 

The  pond  rises  and  falls,  but  whether  regularly 
or  not,  and  within  what  period,  nobody  knows, 

240  WALDEN 

though,  as  usual,  many  pretend  to  know.  It  is 
commonly  higher  in  the  winter  and  lower  in  the 
summer,  though  not  corresponding  to  the  gen 
eral  wet  and  dry  ness.  I  can  remember  when  it 
was  a  foot  or  two  lower,  and  also  when  it  was  at 
least  five  feet  higher,  than  when  I  lived  by  it. 
There  is  a  narrow  sand-bar  running  into  it,  very 
deep  water  on  one  side,  on  which  I  helped  boil 
a  kettle  of  chowder,  some  six  rods  from  the  main 
shore,  about  the  year  1824,  which  it  has  not  been 
possible  to  do  for  twenty-five  years;  and  on  the 
other  hand,  my  friends  used  to  listen  with  incre 
dulity  when  I  told  them  that  a  few  years  later  I 
was  accustomed  to  fish  from  a  boat  in  a  secluded 
cove  in  the  woods,  fifteen  rods  from  the  only 
shore  they  knew,  which  place  was  long  since 
converted  into  a  meadow.  But  the  pond  has 
risen  steadily  for  two  years,  and  now,  in  the 
summer  of  '52,  is  just  five  feet  higher  than  when 
I  lived  there,  or  as  high  as  it  was  thirty  years 
ago,  and  fishing  goes  on  again  in  the  meadow. 
This  makes  a  difference  of  level,  at  the  outside, 
of  six  or  seven  feet;  and  yet  the  water  shed  by 
the  surrounding  hills  is  insignificant  in  amount, 
and  this  overflow  must  be  referred  to  causes 
which  affect  the  deep  springs.  This  same  sum 
mer  the  pond  has  begun  to  fall  again.  It  is 
remarkable  that  this  fluctuation,  whether  period 
ical  or  not,  appears  thus  to  require  many  years 
for  its  accomplishment.  I  have  observed  one 

THE  PONDS  241 

rise  and  a  part  of  two  falls,  and  I  expect  that  a 
dozen  or  fifteen  years  hence  the  water  will  again 
be  as  low  as  I  have  ever  known  it.  Flint's  Pond, 
a  mile  eastward,  allowing  for  the  disturbance  oc 
casioned  by  its  inlets  and  outlets,  and  the  smaller 
intermediate  ponds  also,  sympathize  with  Walden, 
and  recently  attained  their  greatest  height  at 
the  same  time  with  the  latter.  The  same  is  true, 
as  far  as  my  observation  goes,  of  White  Pond. 
This  rise  and  fall  of  Walden  at  long  intervals 
serves  this  use  at  least:  the  water  standing  at 
this  great  height  for  a  year  or  more,  though  it 
makes  it  difficult  to  wralk  round  it,  kills  the 
shrubs  and  trees  which  have  sprung  up  about 
its  edge  since  the  last  rise,  pitch-pines,  birches, 
alders,  aspens,  and  others,  and,  falling  again, 
leaves  an  unobstructed  shore;  for,  unlike  many 
ponds,  and  all  waters  which  are  subject  to  a 
daily  tide,  its  shore  is  cleanest  when  the  water  is 
lowest.  On  the  side  of  the  pond  next  my  house, 
a  row  of  pitch-pines  fifteen  feet  high  has  been 
killed  and  tipped  over  as  if  by  a  lever,  and  thus 
a  stop  put  to  their  encroachments;  and  their 
size  indicates  how  many  years  have  elapsed 
since  the  last  rise  to  this  height.  By  this  fluctu 
ation  the  pond  asserts  its  title  to  a  shore,  and 
thus  the  shore  is  shorn,  and  the  trees  cannot  hold 
it  by  right  of  possession.  These  are  the  lips  of 
the  lake  on  which  no  beard 'grows.  It  licks  its 
chaps  from  time  to  time.  When  the  water  is  at 

242  WALDEN 

its  height,  the  alders,  willows,  and  maples  send 
forth  a  mass  of  fibrous  red  roots  several  feet  long 
from  all  sides  of  their  stems  in  the  water,  and  to 
the  height  of  three  or  four  feet  from  the  ground, 
in  the  effort  to  maintain  themselves ;  and  I  have 
known  the  high  blueberry  bushes  about  the 
shore,  which  commonly  produce  no  fruit,  bear 
an  abundant  crop  under  these  circumstances. 

Some  have  been  puzzled  to  tell  how  the  shore 
became  so  regularly  paved.  My  townsmen  have 
all  heard  the  tradition,  the  oldest  people  tell  me 
that  they  heard  it  in  their  youth,  that  anciently 
the  Indians  were  holding  a  pow-wow  upon  a 
hill  here,  which  rose  as  high  into  the  heavens  as 
the  pond  now  sinks  deep  into  the  earth,  and  they 
used  much  profanity,  as  the  story  goes,  though 
this  vice  is  one  of  which  the  Indians  were  never 
guilty,  and  while  they  were  thus  engaged  the 
hill  shook  and  suddenly  sank,  and  only  one  old 
squaw,  named  Walden,  escaped,  and  from  her 
the  pond  was  named.  It  has  been  conjectured 
that  when  the  hill  shook  these  stones  rolled 
down  its  side  and  became  the  present  shore.  It 
is  very  certain,  at  any  rate,  that  once  there  was 
no  pond  here,  and  now  there  is  one;  and  this 
Indian  fable  does  not  in  any  respect  conflict  with 
the  account  of  that  ancient  settler  whom  I  have 
mentioned,  who  remembers  so  well  when  he 
first  came  here  with  his  divining-rod,  saw  a  thin 
vapor  rising  from  the  sward,  and  the  hazel 



THE   PONDS  243 

pointed  steadily  downward,  and  he  concluded 
to  dig  a  well  here.  As  for  the  stones,  many  still 
think  that  they  are  hardly  to  be  accounted  for 
by  the  action  of  the  waves  on  these  hills;  but  I 
observe  that  the  surrounding  hills  are  remark 
ably  full  of  the  same  kind  of  stones,  so  that  they 
have  been  obliged  to  pile  them  up  in  walls  on 
both  sides  of  the  railroad  cut  nearest  the  pond; 
and,  moreover,  there  are  most  stones  where  the 
shore  is  most  abrupt;  so  that,  unfortunately,  it 
is  no  longer  a  mystery  to  me.  I  detect  the  paver. 
If  the  name  was  not  derived  from  that  of  some 
English  locality,  —  Saffron  Walden,  for  in 
stance,  —  one  might  suppose  that  it  was  called, 
originally,  Walled-in  Pond. 

The  pond  was  my  well  ready  dug.  For  four 
months  in  the  year  its  water  is  as  cold  as  it  is 
pure  at  all  times ;  and  I  think  that  it  is  then  as 
good  as  any,  if  not  the  best,  in  the  town.  In  the 
winter,  all  water  w^hich  is  exposed  to  the  air  is 
colder  than  springs  and  wells  which  are  pro 
tected  from  it.  The  temperature  of  the  pond 
water  which  had  stood  in  the  room  where  I  sat 
from  five  o'clock  in  the  afternoon  till  noon  the 
next  day,  the  sixth  of  March,  1846,  the  ther 
mometer  having  been  up  to  65°  or  70°  some  of 
the  time,  owing  partly  to  the  sun  on  the  roof, 
was  42°,  or  one  degree  colder  than  the  water  of 
one  of  the  coldest  wells  in  the  village  just  drawn. 
The  temperature  of  the  Boiling  Spring  the  same 

244  WALDEN 

day  was  45°,  or  the  warmest  of  any  water  tried, 
though  it  is  the  coldest  that  I  know  of  in  summer, 
when,  besides,  shallow  and  stagnant  surface 
water  is  not  mingled  with  it.  Moreover,  in 
summer,  Walden  never  becomes  so  warm  as 
most  water  which  is  exposed  to  the  sun,  on  ac 
count  of  its  depth.  In  the  warmest  weather  I 
usually  placed  a  pailful  in  my  cellar,  where  it 
became  cool  in  the  night,  and  remained  so  dur 
ing  the  day;  though  I  also  resorted  to  a  spring 
in  the  neighborhood.  It  was  as  good  when  a 
week  old  as  the  day  it  was  dipped,  and  had  no 
taste  of  the  pump.  Whoever  camps  for  a  week 
in  summer  by  the  shore  of  a  pond,  needs  only 
bury  a  pail  of  water  a  few  feet  deep  in  the  shade 
of  his  camp  to  be  independent  of  the  luxury  of 

There  have  been  caught  in  Walden,  pickerel, 
one  weighing  seven  pounds,  to  say  nothing  of 
another  which  carried  off  a  reel  with  great  veloc 
ity,  which  the  fisherman  safely  set  down  at  eight 
pounds  because  he  did  not  see  him,  perch  and 
pouts,  some  of  each  weighing  over  two  pounds, 
shiners,  chivins  or  roach  (Leuciscus  pulchellus), 
a  very  few  breams,  and  a  couple  of  eels,  one 
weighing  four  pounds,  —  I  am  thus  particular 
because  the  weight  of  a  fish  is  commonly  its 
only  title  to  fame,  and  these  are  the  only  eels  I 
have  heard  of  here ;  —  also,  I  have  a  faint  recol 
lection  of  a  little  fish  some  five  inches  long,  with 

THE   PONDS  245 

silvery  sides  and  a  greenish  back,  somewhat 
dace-like  in  its  character,  which  I  mention  here 
chiefly  to  link  my  facts  to  fable.  Nevertheless, 
this  pond  is  not  very  fertile  in  fish.  Its  pickerel, 
though  not  abundant,  are  its  chief  boast.  I  have 
seen  at  one  time  lying  on  the  ice  pickerel  of  at 
least  three  different  kinds:  a  long  and  shallow 
one,  steel-colored,  most  like  those  caught  in  the 
river;  a  bright  golden  kind,  with  greenish  re 
flections  and  remarkably  deep,  which  is  the  most 
common  here;  and  another,  golden-colored, 
and  shaped  like  the  last,  but  peppered  on  the 
sides  with  small  dark  brown  or  black  spots,  in 
termixed  with  a  few  faint  blood-red  ones  very 
much  like  a  trout.  The  specific  name  reticu- 
latus  would  not  apply  to  this;  it  should  be 
guttatus  rather.  These  are  all  very  firm  fish, 
and  weigh  more  than  their  size  promises.  The 
shiners,  pouts,  and  perch,  also,  and  indeed  ail 
the  fishes  which  inhabit  this  pond,  are  much 
cleaner,  handsomer,  and  firmer  fleshed  than 
those  in  the  river  and  most  other  ponds,  as  the 
water  is  purer,  and  they  can  easily  be  distin 
guished  from  them.  Probably  many  ichthyolo 
gists  would  make  new  varieties  of  some  of  them. 
There  are  also  a  clean  race  of  frogs  and  tortoises, 
and  a  few  mussels  in  it;  muskrats  and  minks 
leave  their  traces  about  it,  and  occasionally  a 
travelling  mud-turtle  visits  it.  Sometimes,  when 
I  pushed  off  my  boat  in  the  morning,  I  disturbed 

246  WALDEN 

a  great  mud-turtle  which  had  secreted  himself 
under  the  boat  in  the  night.  Ducks  and  geese 
frequent  it  in  the  spring  and  fall,  the  white- 
bellied  swallows  (Hirundo  bicolor)  skim  over  it, 
and  the  peetweets  (Totanus  macularius)  "teter" 
along  its  stony  shores  all  summer.  I  have  some 
times  disturbed  a  fishhawk  sitting  on  a  white- 
pine  over  the  water;  but  I  doubt  if  it  is  ever 
profaned  by  the  wing  of  a  gull,  like  Fair-Haven. 
At  most,  it  tolerates  one  annual  loon.  These 
are  all  the  animals  of  consequence  which  fre 
quent  it  now. 

You  may  see  from  a  boat,  in  calm  weather, 
near  the  sandy  eastern  shore,  where  the  water 
is  eight  or  ten  feet  deep,  and  also  in  some  other 
parts  of  the  pond,  some  circular  heaps  half  a 
dozen  feet  in  diameter  by  a  foot  in  height,  con 
sisting  of  small  stones  less  than  a  hen's  egg  in 
size,  where  all  around  is  bare  sand.  At  first  you 
wonder  if  the  Indians  could  have  formed  them 
on  the  ice  for  any  purpose,  and  so,  when  the 
ice  melted,  they  sank  to  the  bottom;  but  they 
are  too  regular  and  some  of  them  plainly  too 
fresh  for  that.  They  are  similar  to  those  found 
in  rivers;  but  as  there  are  no  suckers  nor  lam 
preys  here,  I  know  not  by  what  fish  they  could  be 
made.  Perhaps  they  are  the  nests  of  the  chivin. 
These  lend  a  pleasing  mystery  to  the  bottom. 

The  shore  is  irregular  enough  not  to  be  mo 
notonous.  I  have  in  my  mind's  eye  the  western 

THE   PONDS  247 

indented  with  deep  bays,  the  bolder  northern, 
and  the  beautifully  scalloped  southern  shore, 
where  successive  capes  overlap  each  other  and 
suggest  unexplored  coves  between.  The  forest 
has  never  so  good  a  setting,  nor  is  so  distinctly 
beautiful,  as  when  seen  from  the  middle  of  a 
small  lake  amid  hills  which  rise  from  the  water's 
edge;  for  the  water  in  which  it  is  reflected  not 
only  makes  the  best  foreground  in  such  a  case, 
but,  with  its  winding  shore,  the  most  natural 
and  agreeable  boundary  to  it.  There  is  no  raw 
ness  nor  imperfection  in  its  edge  there,  as  where 
the  axe  has  cleared  a  part,  or  a  cultivated  field 
abuts  on  it.  The  trees  have  ample  room  to  ex 
pand  on  the  water  side,  and  each  sends  forth  its 
most  vigorous  branch  in  that  direction.  There 
Nature  has  woven  a  natural  selvage,  and  the 
eye  rises  by  just  gradations  from  the  low  shrubs 
of  the  shore  to  the  highest  trees.  There  are  few 
traces  of  man's  hand  to  be  seen.  The  water 
laves  the  shore  as  it  did  a  thousand  years  ago. 

A  lake  is  the  landscape's  most  beautiful  and 
expressive  feature.  It  is  earth's  eye;  looking 
into  which  the  beholder  measures  the  depth  of 
his  own  nature.  The  fluviatile  trees  next  the 
shore  are  the  slender  eyelashes  which  fringe  it, 
and  the  wooded  hills  and  cliffs  around  are  its 
overhanging  brows. 

Standing  on  the  smooth  sandy  beach  at  the 
east  end  of  the  pond,  in  a  calm  September  after- 

248  WALDEN 

noon,  when  a  slight  haze  makes  the  opposite 
shore  line  indistinct,  I  have  seen  whence  came 
the  expression,  "the  glassy  surface  of  a  lake." 
When  you  invert  your  head,  it  looks  like  a 
thread  of  finest  gossamer  stretched  across  the 
valley,  and  gleaming  against  the  distant  pine 
woods,  separating  one  stratum  of  the  atmos 
phere  from  another.  You  would  think  that  you 
could  walk  dry  under  it  to  the  opposite  hills,  and 
that  the  swallows  which  skim  over  might  perch 
on  it.  Indeed,  they  sometimes  dive  below  the 
line,  as  it  were  by  mistake,  and  are  undeceived. 
As  you  look  over  the  pond  westward  you  are 
obliged  to  employ  both  your  hands  to  defend 
your  eyes  against  the  reflected  as  well  as  the  true 
sun,  for  they  are  equally  bright ;  and  if,  between 
the  two,  you  survey  its  surface  critically,  it  is 
literally  as  smooth  as  glass,  except  where  the 
skater  insects,  at  equal  intervals  scattered  over 
its  whole  extent,  by  their  motions  in  the  sun  pro 
duce  the  finest  imaginable  sparkle  on  it,  or,  per 
chance,  a  duck  plumes  itself,  or,  as  I  have  said, 
a  swallow  skims  so  low  as  to  touch  it.  It  may  be 
that  in  the  distance  a  fish  describes  an  arc  of 
three  or  four  feet  in  the  air,  and  there  is  one 
bright  flash  where  it  emerges,  and  another 
where  it  strikes  the  water ;  sometimes  the  whole 
silvery  arc  is  revealed;  or  here  and  there,  per 
haps,  is  a  thistle-down  floating  on  its  surface, 
which  the  fishes  dart  at  and  so  dimple  it  again. 

THE   PONDS  249 

It  is  like  molten  glass  cooled  but  not  congealed, 
and  the  few  motes  in  it  are  pure  and  beautiful 
like  the  imperfections  in  glass.  You  may  often 
detect  a  yet  smoother  and  darker  water,  sep 
arated  from  the  re«t  as  if  by  an  invisible  cobweb, 
boom  of  the  water  nymphs,  resting  on  it.  From 
a  hill  top  you  can  see  a  fish  leap  in  almost  any 
part ;  for  not  a  pickerel  or  shiner  picks  an  insect 
from  this  smooth  surface  but  it  manifestly  dis 
turbs  the  equilibrium  of  the  whole  lake.  It  is 
wonderful  with  what  elaborateness  this  simple 
fact  is  advertised, -- this  piscine  murder  will 
out,  —  and  from  my  distant  perch  I  distinguish 
the  circling  undulations  when  they  are  half  a 
dozen  rods  in  diameter.  You  can  even  detect  a 
water-bug  (Gyrinus)  ceaselessly  progressing  over 
the  smooth  surface  a  quarter  of  a  mile  off;  for 
they  furrow  the  water  slightly,  making  a  con 
spicuous  ripple  bounded  by  two  diverging  lines, 
but  the  skaters  glide  over  it  without  rippling  it 
perceptibly.  When  the  surface  is  considerably 
agitated  there  are  no  skaters  nor  water-bugs  on 
it,  but  apparently,  in  calm  days,  they  leave  their 
havens  and  adventurously  glide  forth  from  the 
shore  by  short  impulses  till  they  completely 
cover  it.  It  is  a  soothing  employment,  on  one 
of  those  fine  days  in  the  fall  when  all  the  warmth 
of  the  sun  is  fully  appreciated,  to  sit  on  a  stump 
on  such  a  height  as  this,  overlooking  the  pond, 
and  study  the  dimpling  circles  which  are  inces- 

250  WALDEN 

santly  inscribed  on  its  otherwise  invisible  sur 
face  amid  the  reflected  skies  and  trees.  Over 
this  great  expanse  there  is  no  disturbance  but  it 
is  thus  at  once  gently  smoothed  away  and  as 
suaged,  as,  when  a  vase  of  water  is  jarred,  the 
trembling  circles  seek  the  shore  and  all  is  smooth 
again.  Not  a  fish  can  leap  or  an  insect  fall  on 
the  pond  but  it  is  thus  reported  in  circling 
dimples,  in  lines  of  beauty,  as  it  were  the  con 
stant  welling  up  of  its  fountain,  the  gentle  pulsing 
of  its  life,  the  heaving  of  its  breast.  The  thrills 
of  joy  and  thrills  of  pain  are  undistinguishable. 
How  peaceful  the  phenomena  of  the  lake! 
Again  the  works  of  man  shine  as  in  the  spring. 
Ay,  every  leaf  and  twig  and  stone  and  cobweb 
sparkles  now  at  mid-afternoon  as  when  covered 
with  dew  in  a  spring  morning.  Every  motion 
of  an  oar  or  an  insect  produces  a  flash  of  light; 
and  if  an  oar  falls,  how  sweet  the  echo ! 

In  such  a  day  in  September  or  October,  Wai- 
den  is  a  perfect  forest  mirror,  set  round  with 
stones  as  precious  to  my  eye  as  if  fewer  or  rarer. 
Nothing  so  fair,  so  pure,  and  at  the  same  time 
so  large,  as  a  lake,  perchance,  lies  on  the  sur 
face  of  the  earth.  Sky  water.  It  needs  no  fence. 
Nations  come  and  go  without  defiling  it.  It  is 
a  mirror  which  no  stone  can  crack,  whose 
quicksilver  will  never  wear  off,  whose  gilding 
Nature  continually  repairs;  no  storms,  no  dust, 
can  dim  its  surface  ever  fresh;  —  a  mirror  in 

THE  PONDS  251 

which  all  impurity  presented  to  it  sinks,  swept 
and  dusted  by  the  sun's  hazy  brush,  --  this  the 
light  dust-cloth,  —  which  retains  no  breath  that 
is  breathed  on  it,  but  sends  its  own  to  float  as 
clouds  high  above  its  surface,  and  be  reflected 
in  its  bosom  still. 

A  field  of  water  betrays  the  spirit  that  is  in 
the  air.  It  is  continually  receiving  new  life 
and  motion  from  above.  It  is  intermediate  in 
its  nature  between  land  and  sky.  On  land  only 
the  grass  and  trees  wave,  but  the  water  itself  is 
rippled  by  the  wind.  I  see  where  the  breeze 
dashes  across  it  by  the  streaks  or  flakes  of  light. 
It  is  remarkable  that  we  can  look  down  on  its 
surface.  We  shall,  perhaps,  look  down  thus  on 
the  surface  of  air  at  length,  and  mark  where  a 
still  subtler  spirit  sweeps  over  it. 

The  skaters  and  water-bugs  finally  disappear 
in  the  latter  part  of  October,  when  the  severe 
frosts  have  come ;  and  then  and  in  November, 
usually,  in  a  calm  day,  there  is  absolutely  noth 
ing  to  ripple  the  surface.  One  November  after 
noon,  in  the  calm  at  the  end  of  a  rain  storm  of 
several  days'  duration,  when  the  sky  was  still 
completely  overcast  and  the  air  was  full  of  mist, 
I  observed  that  the  pond  was  remarkably  smooth, 
so  that  it  was  difficult  to  distinguish  its  surface; 
though  it  no  longer  reflected  the  bright  tints  of 
October,  but  the  sombre  November  colors  of 
the  surrounding  hills.  Though  I  passed  over  it 

252  WALDEN 

as  gently  as  possible,  the  slight  undulations  pro 
duced  by  nay  boat  extended  almost  as  far  as  I 
could  see,  and  gave  a  ribbed  appearance  to  the 
reflections.  But,  as  I  was  looking  over  the  sur 
face,  I  saw  here  and  there  at  a  distance  a  faint 
glimmer,  as  if  some  skater  insects  which  had 
escaped  the  frosts  might  be  collected  there,  or, 
perchance,  the  surface,  being  so  smooth,  be 
trayed  where  a  spring  welled  up  from  the  bot 
tom.  Paddling  gently  to  one  of  these  places,  I 
was  surprised  to  find  myself  surrounded  by 
myriads  of  small  perch,  about  five  inches  long, 
of  a  rich  bronze  color  in  the  green  water,  sport 
ing  there  and  constantly  rising  to  the  surface 
and  dimpling  it,  sometimes  leaving  bubbles  on 
it.  In  such  transparent  and  seemingly  bottom 
less  water,  reflecting  the  clouds,  I  seemed  to  be 
floating  through  the  air  as  in  a  balloon,  and 
their  swimming  impressed  me  as  a  kind  of  flight 
or  hovering,  as  if  they  were  a  compact  flock  of 
birds  passing  just  beneath  my  level  on  the  right 
or  left,  their  fins,  like  sails,  set  all  around  them. 
There  were  many  such  schools  in  the  pond,  ap 
parently  improving  the  short  season  before 
winter  would  draw  an  icy  shutter  over  their 
broad  skylight,  sometimes  giving  to  the  surface 
an  appearance  as  if  a  slight  breeze  struck  it,  or 
a  few  rain-drops  fell  there.  When  I  approached 
carelessly  and  alarmed  them,  they  made  a  sud 
den  plash  and  rippling  with  their  tails,  as  if  one 

THE   PONDS  253 

had  struck  the  water  with  a  brushy  bough,  and 
instantly  took  refuge  in  the  depths.  At  length 
the  wind  rose,  the  mist  increased,  and  the  waves 
began  to  run,  and  the  perch  leaped  much  higher 
than  before,  half  out  of  water,  a  hundred  black 
points,  three  inches  long,  at  once  above  the  sur 
face.  Even  as  late  as  the  fifth  of  December,  one 
year,  I  saw  some  dimples  on  the  surface,  and 
thinking  it  was  going  to  rain  hard  immediately, 
the  air  being  full  of  mist,  I  made  haste  to  take 
my  place  at  the  oars  and  row  homeward ;  al 
ready  the  rain  seemed  rapidly  increasing,  though 
I  felt  none  on  my  cheek,  and  I  anticipated  a 
thorough  soaking.  But  suddenly  the  dimples 
ceased,  for  they  were  produced  by  the  perch, 
which  the  noise  of  my  oars  had  scared  into  the 
depths,  and  I  saw  their  schools  dimly  disap 
pearing;  so  I  spent  a  dry  afternoon  after  all. 

An  old  man  who  used  to  frequent  this  pond 
nearly  sixty  years  ago,  when  it  was  dark  with 
surrounding  forests,  tells  me  that  in  those  days 
he  sometimes  saw  it  all  alive  with  ducks  and 
other  water  fowl,  and  that  there  were  many  eagles 
about  it.  He  came  here  a-fishing,  and  used  an 
old  log  canoe  which  he  found  on  the  shore.  It 
was  made  of  two  white-pine  logs  dug  out  and 
pinned  together,  and  was  cut  off  square  at  the 
ends.  It  was  very  clumsy,  but  lasted  a  great 
many  years  before  it  became  water-logged  and 
perhaps  sank  to  the  bottom.  He  did  not  know 

254  WALDEN 

whose  it  was ;  it  belonged  to  the  pond.  He  used 
to  make  a  cable  for  his  anchor  of  strips  of  hick 
ory  bark  tied  together.  An  old  man,  a  potter, 
who  lived  by  the  pond  before  the  Revolution, 
told  him  once  that  there  was  an  iron  chest  at 
the  bottom,  and  that  he  had  seen  it.  Some 
times  it  would  come  floating  up  to  the  shore; 
but  when  you  went  toward  it,  it  would  go  back 
into  deep  water  and  disappear.  I  was  pleased 
to  hear  of  the  old  log  canoe,  which  took  the  place 
of  an  Indian  one  of  the  same  material  but  more 
graceful  construction,  which  perchance  had  first 
been  a  tree  on  the  bank,  and  then,  as  it  were, 
fell  into  the  water,  to  float  there  for  a  genera 
tion,  the  most  proper  vessel  for  the  lake.  I  re 
member  that  when  I  first  looked  into  these 
depths  there  were  many  large  trunks  to  be  seen 
indistinctly  lying  on  the  bottom,  which  had 
either  been  blown  over  formerly,  or  left  on  the 
ice  at  the  last  cutting,  when  wood  was  cheaper; 
but  now  they  have  mostly  disappeared. 

When  I  first  paddled  a  boat  on  Walden,  it  was 
completely  surrounded  by  thick  and  lofty  pine 
and  oak  woods,  and  in  some  of  its  coves  grape 
vines  had  run  over  the  trees  next  the  water  and 
formed  bowers  under  which  a  boat  could  pass. 
The  hills  which  form  its  shores  are  so  steep,  and 
the  woods  on  them  were  then  so  high,  that,  as 
you  looked  down  from  the  west  end,  it  had  the 
appearance  of  an  amphitheatre  for  some  kind 

THE   PONDS  255 

of  sylvan  spectacle.  I  have  spent  many  an  hour, 
when  I  was  younger,  floating  over  its  surface  as 
the  zephyr  willed,  having  paddled  my  boat  to 
the  middle,  and  lying  on  my  back  across  the 
seats,  in  a  summer  forenoon,  dreaming  awake, 
until  I  was  aroused  by  the  boat  touching  the 
sand,  and  I  arose  to  see  what  shore  my  fates 
had  impelled  me  to;  days  when  idleness  was 
the  most  attractive  and  productive  industry. 
Many  a  forenoon  have  I  stolen  away,  preferring 
to  spend  thus  the  most  valued  part  of  the  day; 
for  I  was  rich,  if  not  in  money,  in  sunny  hours 
and  summer  days,  and  spent  them  lavishly; 
nor  do  I  regret  that  I  did  not  waste  more  of 
them  in  the  workshop  or  the  teacher's  desk. 
But  since  I  left  those  shores  the  wood-choppers 
have  still  further  laid  them  waste,  and  now  for 
many  a  year  there  will  be  no  more  rambling 
through  the  aisles  of  the  wood,  with  occasional 
vistas  through  which  you  see  the  water.  My 
Muse  may  be  excused  if  she  is  silent  henceforth. 
How  can  you  expect  the  birds  to  sing  when 
their  groves  are  cut  down  ? 

Now  the  trunks  of  trees  on  the  bottom,  and 
the  old  log  canoe,  and  the  dark  surrounding 
woods,  are  gone,  and  the  villagers,  who  scarcely 
know  where  it  lies,  instead  of  going  to  the  pond 
to  bathe  or  drink,  are  thinking  to  bring  its  water, 
which  should  be  as  sacred  as  the  Ganges  at 
least,  to  the  village  in  a  pipe,  to  wash  their 

256  WALDEN 

dishes  with !  —  to  earn  their  Walden  by  the 
turning  of  a  cock  or  drawing  of  a  plug !  That 
devilish  Iron  Horse,  whose  ear-rending  neigh 
is  heard  throughout  the  town,  has  muddied  the 
Boiling  Spring  with  his  foot,  and  he  it  is  that 
has  browsed  off  all  the  woods  on  Walden  shore ; 
that  Trojan  horse,  with  a  thousand  men  in  his 
belly,  introduced  by  mercenary  Greeks  !  Where 
is  the  country's  champion,  the  Moore  of  Moore 
Hall,  to  meet  him  at  the  Deep  Cut  and  thrust 
an  avenging  lance  between  the  ribs  of  the  bloated 

Nevertheless,  of  all  the  characters  I  have 
known,  perhaps  Walden  wears  best,  and  best 
preserves  its  purity.  Many  men  have  been 
likened  to  it,  but  few  deserve  that  honor. 
Though  the  wood-choppers  have  laid  bare  first 
this  shore  and  then  that,  and  the  Irish  have 
built  their  sties  by  it,  and  the  railroad  has  in 
fringed  on  its  border,  and  the  ice-men  have 
skimmed  it  once,  it  is  itself  unchanged,  the  same 
water  which  my  youthful  eyes  fell  on;  all  the 
change  is  in  me.  It  has  not  acquired  one  per 
manent  wrinkle  after  all  its  ripples.  It  is  peren 
nially  young,  and  I  may  stand  and  pee  a  swallow 
dip  apparently  to  pick  an  insect  from  its  sur 
face  as  of  yore.  It  struck  me  again  to-night, 
as  if  I  had  not  seen  it  almost  daily  for  more 
than  twenty  years,  —  Why,  here  is  Walden, 
the  same  woodland  lake  that  I  discovered  so 

THE  PONDS  257 

many  years  ago ;  where  a  forest  was  cut  down 
last  winter  another  is  springing  up  by  its  shore 
as  lustily  as  ever;  the  same  thought  is  welling 
up  to  its  surface  that  was  then;  it  is  the  same 
liquid  joy  and  happiness  to  itself  and  its  Maker, 
ay,  and  it  may  be  to  me.  It  is  the  work  of  a 
brave  man,  surely,  in  whom  there  was  no  guile ! 
He  rounded  this  water  with  his  hand,  deepened 
and  clarified  it  in  his  thought,  and  in  his  will 
bequeathed  it  to  Concord.  I  see  by  its  face 
that  it  is  visited  by  the  same  reflection;  and  I 
can  almost  say,  Walden,  is  it  you  ? 

It  is  no  dream  of  mine, 

To  ornament  a  line; 

I  cannot  come  nearer  to  God  and  Heaven 

Than  I  live  to  Walden  even. 

I  am  its  stony  shore, 

And  the  breeze  that  passes  o'er; 

In  the  hollow  of  my  hand 

Are  its  water  and  its  sand, 

And  its  deepest  resort 

Lies  high  in  my  thought. 

The  cars  never  pause  to  look  at  it;  yet  I 
fancy  that  the  engineers  and  firemen  and  brake- 
men,  and  those  passengers  who  have  a  season 
ticket  and  see  it  often,  are  better  men  for 
the  sight.  The  engineer  does  not  forget  at 
night,  or  his  nature  does  not,  that  he  has  be 
held  this  vision  of  serenity  and  purity  once  at 
least  during  the  day.  Though  seen  but  once,  it 
helps  to  wash  out  State-street  and  the  engine's 


258  WALDEN 

soot.      One  proposes  that  it  be  called  "God's 

I  have  said  that  Walden  has  no  visible  inlet 
nor  outlet,  but  it  is  on  the  one  hand  distantly 
and  indirectly  related  to  Flint's  Pond,  which  is 
more  elevated,  by  a  chain  of  small  ponds  com 
ing  from  that  quarter,  and  on  the  other  directly 
and  manifestly  to  Concord  River,  which  is 
lower,  by  a  similar  chain  of  ponds  through 
which  in  some  other  geological  period  it  may 
have  flowed,  and  by  a  little  digging,  which  God 
forbid,  it  can  be  made  to  flow  thither  again.  If 
by  living  thus  reserved  and  austere,  like  a  hermit 
in  the  woods,  so  long,  it  has  acquired  such 
wonderful  purity,  who  would  not  regret  that 
the  comparatively  impure  waters  of  Flint's 
Pond  should  be  mingled  with  it,  or  itself 
should  ever  go  to  waste  its  sweetness  in  the 
ocean  wave? 

Flint's  or  Sandy  Pond,  in  Lincoln,  our  great 
est  lake  and  inland  sea,  lies  about  a  mile  east 
of  Walden.  It  is  much  larger,  being  said  to 
contain  one  hundred  and  ninety-seven  acres, 
and  is  more  fertile  in  fish ;  but  it  is  comparatively 
shallow,  and  not  remarkably  pure.  A  walk 
through  the  woods  thither  was  often  my  recrea 
tion.  It  wras  worth  the  while,  if  only  to  feel 
the  wind  blow  on  your  cheek  freely,  and  see  the 
waves  run,  and  remember  the  life  of  mariners. 

THE  PONDS  259 

I  went  a-chestnutting  there  in  the  fall,  on  windy 
days,  when  the  nuts  were  dropping  into  the 
water  and  were  washed  to  my  feet ;  and  one 
day,  as  I  crept  along  its  sedgy  shore,  the  fresh 
spray  blowing  in  my  face,  I  came  upon  the 
mouldering  wreck  of  a  boat,  the  sides  gone,  and 
hardly  more  than  the  impression  of  its  flat 
bottom  left  amid  the  rushes ;  yet  its  model  was 
sharply  defined,  as  if  it  were  a  large  decayed 
pad,  with  its  veins.  It  was  as  impressive  a 
wreck  as  one  could  imagine  on  the  sea-shore, 
and  had  as  good  a  moral.  It  is  by  this  time 
mere  vegetable  mould  and  undistinguishable 
pond  shore,  through  which  rushes  and  flags 
have  pushed  up.  I  used  to  admire  the  ripple 
marks  on  the  sandy  bottom,  at  the  north  end 
of  this  pond,  made  firm  and  hard  to  the  feet  of 
the  wader  by  the  pressure  of  the  water,  and  the 
rushes  which  grew  in  Indian  file,  in  waving 
lines,  corresponding  to  these  marks,  rank  be 
hind  rank,  as  if  the  waves  had  planted  them. 
There  also  I  have  found,  in  considerable  quan 
tities,  curious  balls,  composed  apparently  of 
fine  grass  or  roots,  of  pipewort  perhaps,  from 
half  an  inch  to  four  inches  in  diameter,  and  per 
fectly  spherical.  These  wash  back  and  forth  in 
shallow  water  on  a  sandy  bottom,  and  are 
sometimes  cast  on  the  shore.  They  are  either 
solid  grass,  or  have  a  little  sand  in  the  middle. 
At  first  you  would  say  that  they  were  formed  by 

260  WALDEN 

the  action  of  the  waves,  like  a  pebble;  yet  the 
smallest  are  made  of  equally  coarse  materials, 
half  an  inch  long,  and  they  are  produced  only 
at  one  season  of  the  year.  Moreover,  the  waves, 
I  suspect,  do  not  so  much  construct  as  wear 
down  a  material  which  has  already  acquired 
consistency.  They  preserve  their  form  when 
dry  for  an  indefinite  period. 

Flint's  Pond!  Such  is  the  poverty  of  our 
nomenclature.  What  right  had  the  unclean  and 
stupid  farmer,  whose  farm  abutted  on  this  sky 
water,  whose  shores  he  has  ruthlessly  laid  bare, 
to  give  his  name  to  it?  Some  skin-flint,  who 
loved  better  the  reflecting  surface  of  a  dollar, 
or  a  bright  cent,  in  which  he  could  see  his  own 
brazen  face ;  who  regarded  even  the  wild  ducks 
which  settled  in  it  as  trespassers;  his  fingers 
grown  into  crooked  and  horny  talons  from  the 
long  habit  of  grasping  harpy-like ;  —  so  it  is 
not  named  for  me.  I  go  not  there  to  see  him 
nor  to  hear  of  him;  who  never  saw  it,  who 
never  bathed  in  it,  who  never  loved  it,  who 
never  protected  it,  who  never  spoke  a  good 
word  for  it,  nor  thanked  God  that  He  had 
made  it.  Rather  let  it  be  named  from  the  fishes 
that  swim  in  it,  the  wild  fowl  or  quadrupeds 
which  frequent  it,  the  wild  flowers  which  grow 
by  its  shores,  or  some  wild  man  or  child  the 
thread  of  whose  history  is  interwoven  with  its 
own;  not  from  him  who  could  show  no  title 

THE   PONDS  261 

to  it  but  the  deed  which  a  like-minded  neighbor 
or  legislature  gave  him,  —  him  who  thought 
only  of  its  inoney  value;  whose  presence  per 
chance  cursed  all  the  shore;  who  exhausted  the 
land  around  it,  and  would  fain  have  exhausted 
the  waters  within  it;  who  regretted  only  that 
it  was  not  English  hay  or  cranberry  meadow,  - 
there  was  nothing  to  redeem  it,  forsooth,  in  his 
eyes,  —  and  would  have  drained  and  sold  it  for 
the  mud  at  its  bottom.  It  did  not  turn  his  mill, 
and  it  was  no  privilege  to  him  to  behold  it.  I 
respect  not  his  labors,  his  farm  where  every 
thing  has  its  price;  who  would  carry  the  land 
scape,  who  would  carry  his  God  to  market  if 
he  could  get  anything  for  Him;  who  goes  to 
market  for  his  god  as  it  is;  on  whose  farm 
nothing  grows  free,  whose  fields  bear  no  crops, 
whose  meadows  no  flowers,  whose  trees  no 
fruits,  but  dollars;  who  loves  not  the  beauty  of 
his  fruits,  whose  fruits  are  not  ripe  for  him  till 
they  are  turned  to  dollars.  Give  me  the  poverty 
that  enjoys  true  wealth.  Farmers  are  respect 
able  and  interesting  to  me  in  proportion  as  they 
are  poor, --poor  farmers.  A  model  farm! 
where  the  house  stands  like  a  fungus  in  a  muck- 
heap,  chambers  for  men,  horses,  oxen,  and 
swine,  cleansed  and  uncleansed,  all  contiguous 
to  one  another !  Stocked  with  men !  A  great 
grease-spot,  redolent  of  manures  and  butter 
milk  !  Under  a  high  state  of  cultivation,  being 

262  WALDEN 

manured  with  the  hearts  and  brains  of  men ! 
As  if  you  were  to  raise  your  potatoes  in  the 
churchyard !  Such  is  a  model  farm. 

No,  no;  if  the  fairest  features  of  the  land 
scape  are  to  be  named  after  men,  let  them  be 
the  noblest  and  worthiest  men  alone.  Let  our 
lakes  receive  as  true  names  at  least  as  the 
Icarian  Sea,  where  "still  the  shore"  a  "brave 
attempt  resounds." 

Goose  Pond,  of  small  extent,  is  on  my  way 
to  Flint's;  Fair-Haven,  an  expansion  of  Con 
cord  River,  said  to  contain  some  seventy  acres, 
is  a  mile  southwest;  and  White  Pond,  of  about 
forty  acres,  is  a  mile  and  a  half  beyond  Fair- 
Haven.  This  is  my  lake  country.  These,  with 
Concord  River,  are  my  water  privileges;  and 
night  and  day,  year  in  and  year  out,  they  grind 
such  grist  as  I  carry  to  them. 

Since  the  wood-cutters,  and  the  railroad,  and 
I  myself  have  profaned  Walden,  perhaps  the 
most  attractive,  if  not  the  most  beautiful,  of  all 
our  lakes,  the  gem  of  the  woods,  is  White  Pond ; 
—  a  poor  name  from  its  commonness,  whether 
derived  from  the  remarkable  purity  of  its  waters 
or  the  color  of  its  sands.  In  these  as  in  other 
respects,  however,  it  is  a  lesser  twin  of  Walden. 
They  are  so  much  alike  that  you  would  say  they 
must  be  connected  under  ground.  It  has  the 
same  stony  shore,  and  its  waters  are  of  the  same 

THE   PONDS  263 

hue.  As  at  Walden,  in  sultry  dog-day  weather, 
looking  down  through  the  woods  on  some  of  its 
bays  which  are  not  so  deep  but  that  the  reflec 
tion  from  the  bottom  tinges  them,  its  waters  are 
of  a  misty  bluish  green  or  glaucous  color.  Many 
years  since  I  used  to  go  there  to  collect  the  sand 
by  cart-loads,  to  make  sand-paper  with,  and  I 
have  continued  to  visit  it  ever  since.  One  who 
frequents  it  proposes  to  call  it  Virid  Lake.  Per 
haps  it  might  be  called  Yellow-Pine  Lake,  from 
the  following  circumstance.  About  fifteen  years 
ago  you  could  see  the  top  of  a  pitch-pine  of  the 
kind  called  yellow-pine  hereabouts,  though  it  is 
not  a  distinct  species,  projecting  above  the  sur 
face  in  deep  water,  many  rods  from  the  shore. 
It  was  even  supposed  by  some  that  the  pond 
had  sunk,  and  this  was  one  of  the  primitive 
forest  that  formerly  stood  there.  I  find  that 
even  so  long  ago  as  1792,  in  a  "Topographical 
Description  of  the  Town  of  Concord,"  by  one 
of  its  citizens,  in  the  Collections  of  the  Massa 
chusetts  Historical  Society,  the  author,  after 
speaking  of  Walden  and  White  Ponds,  adds: 
"In  the  middle  of  the  latter  may  be  seen,  when 
the  water  is  very  low,  a  tree  which  appears  as 
if  it  grew  in  the  place  where  it  now  stands, 
although  the  roots  are  fifty  feet  below  the  sur 
face  of  the  water;  the  top  of  this  tree  is  broken 
off,  and  at  that  place  measures  fourteen  inches 
in  diameter."  In  the  spring  of  '49  I  talked  with 

264  WALDEN 

the  man  who  lives  nearest  the  pond  in  Sudbury, 
who  told  me  that  it  was  he  who  got  out  this  tree 
ten  or  fifteen  years  before.  As  near  as  he  could 
remember,  it  stood  twelve  or  fifteen  rods  from 
the  shore,  where  the  water  was  thirty  or  forty 
feet  deep.  It  was  in  the  winter,  and  he  had 
been  getting  out  ice  in  the  forenoon,  and  had 
resolved  that  in  the  afternoon,  with  the  aid  of 
his  neighbors,  he  would  take  out  the  old  yellow 
pine.  He  sawed  a  channel  in  the  ice  toward  the 
shore,  and  hauled  it  over  and  along  and  out  on 
to  the  ice  with  oxen;  but,  before  he  had  gone 
far  in  his  work,  he  was  surprised  to  find  that  it 
was  wrong  end  upward,  with  the  stumps  of  the 
branches  pointing  down,  and  the  small  end  firmly 
fastened  in  the  sandy  bottom.  It  was  about  a 
foot  in  diameter  at  the  big  end,  and  he  had  ex 
pected  to  get  a  good  saw-log,  but  it  was  so  rotten 
as  to  be  fit  only  for  fuel,  if  for  that.  He  had 
some  of  it  in  his  shed  then.  There  were  marks 
of  an  axe  and  of  woodpeckers  on  the  but.  He 
thought  that  it  might  have  been  a  dead  tree  on 
the  shore,  but  was  finally  blown  over  into  the 
pond,  and  after  the  top  had  become  water 
logged,  while  the  but-end  was  still  dry  and 
light,  had  drifted  out  and  sunk  wrong  end 
up.  His  father,  eighty  years  old,  could  not 
remember  when  it  was  not  there.  Several  pretty 
large  logs  may  still  be  seen  lying  on  the  bot 
tom,  wiiere,  owing  to  the  undulation  of  the 

THE   PONDS  265 

surface,  they  look  like  huge  water  snakes  in 

This  pond  has  rarely  been  profaned  by  a  boat, 
for  there  is  little  in  it  to  tempt  a  fisherman. 
Instead  of  the  white  lily,  which  requires  mud,  or 
the  common  sweet  flag,  the  blue  flag  (Iris 
versicolor)  grows  thinly  in  the  pure  water,  ris 
ing  from  the  stony  bottom  all  around  the  shore, 
where  it  is  visited  by  humming  birds  in  June, 
and  the  color  both  of  its  bluish  blades  and  its 
flowers,  and  especially  their  reflections,  are  in 
singular  harmony  with  the  glaucous  water. 

White  Pond  and  Walden  are  great  crystals 
on  the  surface  of  the  earth,  Lakes  of  Light.  If 
they  were  permanently  congealed,  and  small 
enough  to  be  clutched,  they  would,  perchance, 
be  carried  off  by  slaves,  like  precious  stones,  to 
adorn  the  heads  of  emperors;  but  being  liquid, 
and  ample,  and  secured  to  us  and  our  succes 
sors  forever,  wTe  disregard  them,  and  run  after 
the  diamond  of  Kohinoor.  They  are  too  pure 
to  have  a  market  value ;  they  contain  no  muck. 
How  much  more  beautiful  than  our  lives,  how 
much  more  transparent  than  our  characters, 
are  they !  We  never  learned  meanness  of  them. 
How  much  fairer  than  the  pool  before  the  farm 
er's  door,  in  which  his  ducks  swim  !  Hither  the 
clean  wild  ducks  come.  Nature  has  no  human 
inhabitant  who  appreciates  her.  The  birds 
with  their  plumage  and  their  notes  are  in  har- 

266  WALDEN 

mony  with  the  flowers,  but  what  youth  or  maiden 
conspires  with  the  wild  luxuriant  beauty  of 
Nature?  She  flourishes  most  alone,  far  from 
the  towns  where  they  reside.  Talk  of  heaven ! 
ye  disgrace  earth. 



SOMETIMES  I  rambled  to  pine  groves, 
standing  like  temples,  or  like  fleets  at  sea, 
full-rigged,  with  wavy  boughs,  and  rippling 
with  light,  so  soft  and  green  and  shady  that  the 
Druids  would  have  forsaken  their  oaks  to  wor 
ship  in  them;  or  to  the  cedar  wood  beyond 
Flint's  Pond,  where  the  trees,  covered  with  hoary 
blue  berries,  spiring  higher  and  higher,  are  fit  to 
stand  before  Valhalla,  and  the  creeping  juniper 
covers  the  ground  with  wreaths  full  of  fruit ;  or 
to  swamps  where  the  usnea  lichen  hangs  in  fes 
toons  from  the  white-spruce  trees,  and  toad 
stools,  round  tables  of  the  swamp  gods,  cover  the 
ground,  and  more  beautiful  fungi  adorn  the 
stumps,'like  butterflies  or  shells,  vegetable  winkles ; 
where  the  swamp-pink  and  dogwood  grow,  the  red 
alder-berry  glows  like  eyes  of  imps,  the  waxwork 
grooves  and  crushes  the  hardest  woods  in  its 
folds,  and  the  wild-holly  berries  make  the  be 
holder  forget  his  home  with  their  beauty,  and  he 
is  dazzled  and  tempted  by  nameless  other  wild 
forbidden  fruits,  too  fair  for  mortal  taste.  In- 

268  WALDEN 

stead  of  calling  on  some  scholar,  I  paid  many  a 
visit  to  particular  trees,  of  kinds  which  are  rare 
in  this  neighborhood,  standing  far  away  in  the 
middle  of  some  pasture,  or  in  the  depths  of  a 
wood  or  swamp,  or  on  a  hill  top :  such  as  the 
black-birch,  of  which  we  have  some  handsome 
specimens  two  feet  in  diameter;  its  cousin  the 
yellow-birch,  with  its  loose  golden  vest,  per 
fumed  like  the  first ;  the  beech,  wrhich  has  so  neat 
a  bole  and  beautifully  lichen-painted,  perfect  in 
all  its  details,  of  which,  excepting  scattered  speci 
mens,  I  know  but  one  small  grove  of  sizable  trees 
left  in  the  township,  supposed  by  some  to  have 
been  planted  by  the  pigeons  that  were  once 
baited  with  beech  nuts  near  by ;  it  is  worth  the 
while  to  see  the  silver  grain  sparkle  when  you 
split  this  wood;  the  bass;  the  hornbeam;  the 
celtis  occidentalis^  or  false  elm,  of  which  we  have 
but  one  well-grown ;  some  taller  mast  of  a  pine, 
a  shingle  tree,  or  a  more  perfect  hemlock  than 
usual,  standing  like  a  pagoda  in  the  midst  of 
the  woods;  and  many  others  I  could  mention. 
These  were  the  shrines  I  visited  both  summer 
and  winter. 

Once  it  chanced  that  I  stood  in  the  very  abut 
ment  of  a  rainbow's  arch,  which  filled  the  lower 
stratum  of  the  atmosphere,  tingeing  the  grass  and 
leaves  around,  and  dazzling  me  as  if  I  looked 
through  colored  crystal.  It  was  a  lake  of  rain 
bow  light,  in  which,  for  a  short  while,  I  lived  like 



a  dolphin.  If  it  had  lasted  longer  it  might  have 
tinged  my  employments  and  life.  As  I  walked 
on  the  railroad  causeway,  I  used  to  wonder  at 
the  halo  of  light  around  my  shadow,  and  would 
fain  fancy  myself  one  of  the  elect.  One  who 
visited  me  declared  that  the  shadows  of  some 
Irishmen  before  him  had  no  halo  about  them, 
that  it  was  only  natives  that  were  so  distinguished. 
Benvenuto  Cellini  tells  us  in  his  memoirs,  that, 
after  a  certain  terrible  dream  or  vision  which  he 
had  during  his  confinement  in  the  castle  of  St. 
Angelo,  a  resplendent  light  appeared  over  the 
shadow  of  his  head  at  morning  and  evening, 
whether  he  was  in  Italy  or  France,  and  it  was  par 
ticularly  conspicuous  when  the  grass  was  moist 
with  dew,  This  was  probably  the  same  phenom 
enon  to  which  I  have  referred,  which  is  especially 
observed  in  the  morning,  but  also  at  other  times, 
and  even  by  moonlight.  Though  a  constant  one, 
it  is  not  commonly  noticed,  and,  in  the  case  of 
an  excitable  imagination  like  Cellini's,  it  would 
be  basis  enough  for  superstition.  Besides,  he 
tells  us  that  he  showed  it  to  very  few.  But  are 
they  not  indeed  distinguished  who  are  conscious 
that  they  are  regarded  at  all  ? 

I  set  out  one  afternoon  to  go  a-fishing  to  Fair- 
Haven,  through  the  woods,  to  eke  out  my  scanty 
fare  of  vegetables.  My  way  led  through  Pleasant 
Meadow,  an  adjunct  of  the  Baker  Farm,  that 

270  WALDEN 

retreat  of  which  a  poet  has  since  sung,  begin 
ning,  — 

"Thy  entry  is  a  pleasant  field, 
Which  some  mossy  fruit  trees  yield 
Partly  to  a  ruddy  brook, 
By  gliding  musquash  undertook, 
And  mercurial  trout, 
Darting  about." 

I  thought  of  living  there  before  I  went  to  Walden. 
I  "hooked"  the  apples,  leaped  the  brook,  and 
scared  the  musquash  and  the  trout.  It  was  one 
of  those  afternoons  which  seem  indefinitely  long 
before  one,  in  which  many  events  may  happen,  a 
large  portion  of  our  natural  life,  though  it  was 
already  half  spent  when  I  started.  By  the  way 
there  came  up  a  shower,  which  compelled  me 
to  stand  half  an  hour  under  a  pine,  piling 
boughs  over  my  head,  and  wearing  my  hand 
kerchief  for  a  shed;  and  when  at  length  I  had 
made  one  cast  over  the  pickerel -weed,  standing 
up  to  my  middle  in  water,  I  found  myself  sud 
denly  in  the  shadow  of  a  cloud,  and  the  thunder 
began  to  rumble  with  such  emphasis  that  I 
could  do  no  more  than  listen  to  it.  The  gods 
must  be  proud,  thought  I,  with  such  forked 
flashes  to  rout  a  poor  unarmed  fisherman.  So 
I  made  haste  for  shelter  to  the  nearest  hut,  which 
stood  half  a  mile  from  any  road,  but  so  much  the 
nearer  to  the  pond,  and  had  long  been  unin 
habited  :  — 


"And  here  a  poet  builded, 
In  the  completed  years, 
For  behold  a  trivial  cabin 
That  to  destruction  steers." 

So  the  Muse  fables.  But  therein,  as  I  found, 
dwelt  now  John  Field,  an  Irishman,  and  his 
wife,  and  several  children,  from  the  broad- 
faced  boy  who  assisted  his  father  at  his  work, 
and  now  came  running  by  his  side  from  the  bog 
to  escape  the  rain,  to  the  wrinkled,  sibyl-like, 
cone-headed  infant  that  sat  upon  its  father's 
knee  as  in  the  palaces  of  nobles,  and  looked  out 
from  its  home  in  the  midst  of  wet  and  hunger  in 
quisitively  upon  the  stranger,  with  the  privilege 
of  infancy,  not  knowing  but  it  was  the  last  of  a 
noble  line,  and  the  hope  and  cynosure  of  the 
world,  instead  of  John  Field's  poor  starveling 
brat.  There  we  sat  together  under  that  part  of 
the  roof  which  leaked  the  least,  while  it  showered 
and  thundered  without.  I  had  sat  there  many 
times  of  old  before  the  ship  was  built  that 
floated  this  family  to  America.  An  honest,  hard 
working,  but  shiftless  man  plainly  was  John 
Field;  and  his  wife,  she  too  was  brave  to  cook 
so  many  successive  dinners  in  the  recesses  of 
that  lofty  stove ;  with  round  greasy  face  and  bare 
breast,  still  thinking  to  improve  her  condition 
one  day ;  with  the  never  absent  mop  in  one  hand, 
and  yet  no  effects  of  it  visible  anywhere.  The 
chickens,  which  had  also  taken  shelter  here  from 

272  WALDEN 

the  rain,  stalked  about  the  room  like  members  of 
the  family,  too  humanized  methought  to  roast 
well.  They  stood  and  looked  in  my  eye  or  pecked 
at  my  shoe  significantly.  Meanwhile  my  host 
told  me  his  story,  how  hard  he  worked  "bog 
ging"  for  a  neighboring  farmer,  turning  up  a 
meadow  with  a  spade  or  bog  hoe  at  the  rate  of 
ten  dollars  an  acre  and  the  use  of  the  land  with 
manure  for  one  year,  and  his  little  broad-faced 
son  worked  cheerfully  at  his  father's  side  the 
while,  not  knowing  how  poor  a  bargain  the 
latter  had  made.  I  tried  to  help  him  with  my 
experience,  telling  him  that  he  was  one  of  my 
nearest  neighbors,  and  that  I  too,  who  came 
a-fishing  here,  and  looked  like  a  loafer,  was 
getting  my  living  like  himself ;  that  I  lived  in  a 
tight,  light,  and  clean  house,  which  hardly  cost 
more  than  the  annual  rent  of  such  a  ruin  as  his 
commonly  amounts  to ;  and  how,  if  he  chose,  he 
might  in  a  month  or  two  build  himself  a  palace 
of  his  own ;  that  I  did  not  use  tea,  nor  coffee,  nor 
butter,  nor  milk,  nor  fresh  meat,  and  so  did  not 
have  to  work  to  get  them;  again,  as  I  did  not 
work  hard,  I  did  not  have  to  eat  hard,  and  it 
cost  me  but  a  trifle  for  my  food ;  but  as  he  began 
with  tea,  and  coffee,  and  butter,  and  milk,  and 
beef,  he  had  to  work  hard  to  pay  for  them,  and 
when  he  had  worked  hard  he  had  to  eat  hard 
again  to  repair  the  waste  of  his  system,  —  and 
so  it  was  as  broad  as  it  was  long,  indeed  it  was 


broader  than  it  was  long,  for  he  was  discon 
tented  and  wasted  his  life  into  the  bargain ;  and 
yet  he  had  rated  it  as  a  gain,  in  coming  to  Amer 
ica,  that  here  you  could  get  tea,  and  coffee,  and 
meat  every  day.  But  the  only  true  America  is 
that  country  where  you  are  at  liberty  to  pursue 
such  a  mode  of  life  as  may  enable  you  to  do  with 
out  these,  and  where  the  state  does  not  endeavor 
to  compel  you  to  sustain  the  slavery  and  war  and 
other  superfluous  expenses  which  directly  or  in 
directly  result  from  the  use  of  such  things.  For 
I  purposely  talked  to  him  as  if  he  were  a  philoso 
pher,  or  desired  to  be  one.  I  should  be  glad  if  all 
the  meadows  on  the  earth  were  left  in  a  wild 
state,  if  that  were  the  consequence  of  men's  be 
ginning  to  redeem  themselves.  A  man  will  not 
need  to  study  history  to  find  out  what  is  best  for 
his  own  culture.  But  alas !  the  culture  of  an 
Irishman  is  an  enterprise  to  be  undertaken  with 
a  sort  of  moral  bog  hoe.  I  told  him,  that  as  he 
worked  so  hard  at  bogging,  he  required  thick 
boots  and  stout  clothing,  which  yet  were  soon 
soiled  and  worn  out,  but  I  wore  light  shoes  and 
thin  clothing,  which  cost  not  half  so  much, 
though  he  might  think  that  I  was  dressed  like  a 
gentleman  (which,  however,  was  not  the  case), 
and  in  an  hour  or  two,  without  labor,  but  as  a 
recreation,  I  could,  if  I  wished,  catch  as  many 
fish  as  I  should  want  for  two  days,  or  earn 
enough  money  to  support  me  a  week.  If  he  and 

274  WALDEN 

his  family  would  live  simply,  they  might  all  go 
a-huckleberrying  in  the  summer  for  their  amuse 
ment.  John  heaved  a  sigh  at  this,  and  his  wife 
stared  with  arms  akimbo,  and  both  appeared  to 
be  wondering  if  they  had  capital  enough  to  begin 
such  a  course  with,  or  arithmetic  enough  to 
carry  it  through.  It  was  sailing  by  dead  reck 
oning  to  them,  and  they  saw  not  clearly  how  to 
make  their  port  so ;  therefore  I  suppose  they  still 
take  life  bravely,  after  their  fashion,  face  to  face, 
giving  it  tooth  and  nail,  not  having  skill  to  split  its 
massive  columns  with  any  fine  entering  wedge, 
and  rout  it  in  detail ;  —  thinking  to  deal  with  it 
roughly,  as  one  should  handle  a  thistle.  But 
they  fight  at  an  overwhelming  disadvantage,  — 
living,  John  Field,  alas !  without  arithmetic, 
and  failing  so. 

"Do  you  ever  fish?"  I  asked.  "Oh,  yes,  I 
catch  a  mess  now  and  then  when  I  am  lying  by ; 
good  perch  I  catch."  "  What 's  your  bait  ? "  "I 
catch  shiners  with  fish- worms,  and  bait  the  perch 
with  them."  :<You  'd  better  go  now,  John," 
said  his  wife,  with  glistening  and  hopeful  face; 
but  John  demurred. 

The  shower  was  now  over,  and  a  rainbow 
above  the  eastern  woods  promised  a  fair  even 
ing;  so  I  took  my  departure.  When  I  had  got 
without  I  asked  for  a  dish,  hoping  to  get  a  sight 
of  the  well  bottom,  to  complete  my  survey  of 
the  premises ;  but  there,  alas  !  are  shallows  and 


quicksands,  and  rope  broken  withal,  and  bucket 
irrecoverable.  Meanwhile  the  right  culinary 
vessel  was  selected,  water  was  seemingly  dis 
tilled,  and  after  consultation  and  long  delay 
passed  out  to  the  thirsty  one,  —  not  yet  suffered 
to  cool,  not  yet  to  settle.  Such  gruel  sustains 
life  here,  I  thought;  so,  shutting  my  eyes,  and 
excluding  the  motes  by  a  skilfully  directed  under 
current,  I  drank  to  genuine  hospitality  the 
heartiest  draught  I  could.  I  am  not  squeamish 
in  such  cases  when  manners  are  concerned. 

As  I  was  leaving  the  Irishman's  roof  after  the 
rain,  bending  my  steps  again  to  the  pond,  my 
haste  to  catch  pickerel,  wading  in  retired  mead 
ows,  in  sloughs  and  bog-holes,  in  forlorn  and 
savage  places,  appeared  for  an  instant  trivial  to 
me  who  had  been  sent  to  school  and  college; 
but  as  I  ran  down  the  hill  toward  the  reddening 
west,  with  the  rainbow  over  my  shoulder,  and 
some  faint  tinkling  sounds  borne  to  my  ear 
through  the  cleansed  air,  from  I  know  not  what 
quarter,  my  Good  Genius  seemed  to  say,  —  Go 
fish  and  hunt  far  and  wide  day  by  day,  —  far 
ther  and  wider,  —  and  rest  thee  by  many  brooks 
and  hearth-sides  without  misgiving.  Remember 
thy  Creator  in  the  days  of  thy  youth.  Rise  free 
from  care  before  the  dawn,  and  seek  adventures. 
Let  the  noon  find  thee  by  other  lakes,  and  the 
night  overtake  thee  everywhere  at  home.  There 
are  no  larger  fields  than  these,  no  worthier  games 

276  WALDEN 

than  may  here  be  played.  Grow  wild  according 
to  thy  nature,  like  these  sedges  and  brakes, 
which  will  never  become  English  hay.  Let  the 
thunder  rumble;  what  if  it  threaten  ruin  to 
farmers'  crops?  that  is  not  its  errand  to  thee. 
Take  shelter  under  the  cloud,  while  they  flee  to 
carts  and  sheds.  Let  not  to  get  a  living  be  thy 
trade,  but  thy  sport.  Enjoy  the  land,  but  own  it 
not.  Through  want  of  enterprise  and  faith  men 
are  where  they  are,  buying  and  selling,  and 
spending  their  lives  like  serfs. 
O  Baker  Farm ! 

"Landscape  where  the  richest  element 
Is  a  little  sunshine  innocent."  .  .  . 

"No  one  runs  to  revel 
On  thy  rail-fenced  lea."  .  .  . 

"Debate  with  no  man  hast  thou, 

With  questions  art  never  perplexed, 
As  tame  at  the  first  sight  as  now, 

In  thy  plain  russet  gabardine  dressed."  .  .  . 

"Come  ye  who  love, 

And  ye  who  hate, 
Children  of  the  Holy  Dove, 

And  Guy  Faux  of  the  state, 
And  hang  conspiracies 
From  the  tough  rafters  of  the  trees ! " 

Men  come  tamely  home  at  night  only  from  the 
next  field  or  street,  where  their  household  echoes 
haunt,  and  their  life  pines  because  it  breathes  its 

Fair- Haven  Pond 


own  breath  over  again ;  their  shadows  morning 
and  evening  reach  farther  than  their  daily  steps. 
We  should  come  home  from  far,  from  adventures, 
and  perils,  and  discoveries  every  day,  with  new 
experience  and  character. 

Before  I  had  reached  the  pond  some  fresh 
impulse  had  brought  out  John  Field,  with  al 
tered  mind,  letting  go  "bogging"  ere  this  sunset. 
But  he,  poor  man,  disturbed  only  a  couple  of  fins 
while  I  was  catching  a  fair  string,  and  he  said  it 
was  his  luck;  but  when  he  changed  seats  in  the 
boat  luck  changed  seats  too.  Poor  John  Field ! 
—  I  trust  he  does  not  read  this,  unless  he  will 
improve  by  it,  —  thinking  to  live  by  some  de 
rivative  old  country  mode  in  this  primitive  new 
country,  —  to  catch  perch  with  shiners.  It  is 
good  bait  sometimes,  I  allow.  With  his  horizon 
all  his  own,  yet  he  a  poor  man,  born  to  be  poor, 
with  his  inherited  Irish  poverty  or  poor  life,  his 
Adam's  grandmother  and  boggy  ways,  not  to 
rise  in  this  world,  he  nor  his  posterity,  till  their 
wading,  webbed,  bog-trotting  feet  get  talaria  to 
their  heels. 



AS  I  came  home  through  the  woods  with  my 
string  of  fish,  trailing  my  pole,  it  being 
now  quite  dark,  I  caught  a  glimpse  of  a 
woodchuck  stealing  across  my  path,  and  felt  a 
strange  thrill  of  savage  delight,  and  was  strongly 
tempted  to  seize  and  devour  him  raw ;  not  that  I 
was  hungry  then,  except  for  that  wildness  which 
he  represented.  Once  or  twice,  however,  while 
I  lived  at  the  pond,  I  found  myself  ranging  the 
woods,  like  a  half-starved  hound,  with  a  strange 
abandonment,  seeking  some  kind  of  venison 
which  I  might  devour,  and  no  morsel  could  have 
been  too  savage  for  me.  The  wildest  scenes  had 
become  unaccountably  familiar.  I  found  in  my 
self,  and  still  find,  an  instinct  toward  a  higher,  or, 
as  it  is  named,  spiritual  life,  as  do  most  men, 
and  another  toward  a  primitive  rank  and  savage 
one,  and  I  reverence  them  both.  I  love  the  wild 
not  less  than  the  good.  The  wildness  and  ad 
venture  that  are  in  fishing  still  recommended  it 
to  me.  I  like  sometimes  to  take  rank  hold  on  life 
and  spend  my  day  more  as  the  animals  do. 


Perhaps  I  have  owed  to  this  employment  and  to 
hunting,  when  quite  young,  my  closest  acquaint 
ance  with  Nature.  They  early  introduce  us  to 
and  detain  us  in  scenery  with  which  otherwise, 
at  that  age,  we  should  have  little  acquaintance. 
Fishermen,  hunters,  wood-choppers,  and  others, 
spending  their  lives  in  the  fields  and  woods,  in  a 
peculiar  sense  a  part  of  Nature  themselves,  are 
often  in  a  more  favorable  mood  for  observing 
her,  in  the  intervals  of  their  pursuits,  than  phil 
osophers  or  poets  even,  who  approach  her  with 
expectation.  She  is  not  afraid  to  exhibit  herself 
to  them.  The  traveller  on  the  prairie  is  naturally 
a  hunter,  on  the  head  waters  of  the  Missouri  and 
Columbia  a  trapper,  and  at  the  Falls  of  St. 
Mary  a  fisherman.  He  who  is  only  a  traveller 
learns  things  at  second-hand  and  by  the  halves, 
and  is  poor  authority.  We  are  most  interested 
when  science  reports  what  those  men  already 
know  practically  or  instinctively,  for  that  alone 
is  a  true  humanity,  or  account  of  human  expe 

They  mistake  who  assert  that  the  Yankee 
has  few  amusements,  because  he  has  not  so 
many  public  holidays,  and  men  and  boys  do  not 
play  so  many  games  as  they  do  in  England,  for 
here  the  more  primitive  but  solitary  amuse 
ments  of  hunting,  fishing,  and  the  like  have  not 
yet  given  place  to  the  former.  Almost  every 
New  England  boy  among  my  contemporaries 

280  WALDEN 

shouldered  a  fowling-piece  between  the  ages  of 
ten  and  fourteen;  and  his  hunting  and  fishing 
grounds  were  not  limited  like  the  preserves  of 
an  English  nobleman,  but  were  more  boundless 
even  than  those  of  a  savage.  No  wonder,  then, 
that  he  did  not  oftener  stay  to  play  on  the  com 
mon.  But  already  a  change  is  taking  place, 
owing,  not  to  an  increased  humanity,  but  to  an 
increased  scarcity  of  game,  for  perhaps  the 
hunter  is  the  greatest  friend  of  the  animals 
hunted,  not  excepting  the  Humane  Society. 

Moreover,  when  at  the  pond,  I  wished  some 
times  to  add  fish  to  my  fare  for  variety.  I  have 
actually  fished  from  the  same  kind  of  necessity 
that  the  first  fishers  did.  Whatever  humanity  I 
might  conjure  up  against  it  was  all  factitious, 
and  concerned  my  philosophy  more  than  my 
feelings.  I  speak  of  fishing  only  now,  for  I  had 
long  felt  differently  about  fowling,  and  sold  my 
gun  before  I  went  to  the  woods.  Not  that  I  am 
less  humane  than  others,  but  I  did  not  perceive 
that  my  feelings  were  much  affected.  I  did  not 
pity  the  fishes  nor  the  worms.  This  was  habit. 
As  for  fowling,  during  the  last  years  that  I  car 
ried  a  gun  my  excuse  was  that  I  was  studying 
ornithology,  and  sought  only  new  or  rare  birds. 
But  I  confess  that  I  am  now  inclined  to  think 
that  there  is  a  finer  way  of  studying  ornithology 
than  this.  It  requires  so  much  closer  attention 
to  the  habits  of  the  birds,  that,  if  for  that  reason 


only,  I  have  been  willing  to  omit  the  gun.  Yet 
notwithstanding  the  objection  on  the  score  of 
humanity,  I  am  compelled  to  doubt  if  equally 
valuable  sports  are  ever  substituted  for  these; 
and  when  some  of  my  friends  have  asked  me 
anxiously  about  their  boys,  whether  they  should 
let  them  hunt,  I  have  answered,  yes,  —  remem 
bering  that  it  was  one  of  the  best  parts  of  my 
education,  —  make  them  hunters,  though  sports 
men  only  at  first,  if  possible,  mighty  hunters  at 
last,  so  that  they  shall  not  find  game  large 
enough  for  them  in  this  or  any  vegetable  wilder 
ness,  —  hunters  as  well  as  fishers  of  men.  Thus 
far  I  am  of  the  opinion  of  Chaucer's  nun,  who 

"yave  not  of  the  text  a  pulled  hen 
That  saith  that  hunters  ben  not  holy  men." 

There  is  a  period  in  the  history  of  the  individual, 
as  of  the  race,  when  the  hunters  are  the  "best 
men,"  as  the  Algonquins  called  them.  We  can 
not  but  pity  the  boy  who  has  never  fired  a  gun ; 
he  is  no  more  humane,  while  his  education  has 
been  sadly  neglected.  This  was  my  answer  with 
respect  to  those  youths  who  were  bent  on  this 
pursuit,  trusting  that  they  would  soon  outgrow 
it.  No  humane  being,  past  the  thoughtless  age 
of  boyhood,  will  wantonly  murder  any  creature 
which  holds  its  life  by  the  same  tenure  that  he 
does.  The  hare  in  its  extremity  cries  like  a 
child.  I  warn  you,  mothers,  that  my  sympathies 

282  WALDEN 

do   not   always   make   the   usual   philanthropic 

Such  is  oftenest  the  young  man's  introduction 
to  the  forest,  and  the  most  original  part  of  him 
self.  He  goes  thither  at  first  as  a  hunter  and 
fisher,  until  at  last,  if  he  has  the  seeds  of  a  better 
life  in  him,  he  distinguishes  his  proper  objects, 
as  a  poet  or  naturalist  it  may  be,  and  leaves  the 
gun  and  fish-pole  behind.  The  mass  of  men  are 
still  and  always  young  in  this  respect.  In  some 
countries  a  hunting  parson  is  no  uncommon 
sight.  Such  a  one  might  make  a  good  shep 
herd's  dog,  but  is  far  from  being  the  Good  Shep 
herd.  I  have  been  surprised  to  consider  that 
the  only  obvious  employment,  except  wood- 
chopping,  ice-cutting,  or  the  like  business,  which 
ever  to  my  knowledge  detained  at  Walden  Pond 
for  a  whole  half  day  any  of  my  fellow-citizens, 
whether  fathers  or  children  of  the  town,  with 
just  one  exception,  was  fishing.  Commonly 
they  did  not  think  that  they  were  lucky,  or  well 
paid  for  their  time,  unless  they  got  a  long  string 
of  fish,  though  they  had  the  opportunity  of  see 
ing  the  pond  all  the  while.  They  might  go 
there  a  thousand  times  before  the  sediment  of 
fishing  would  sink  to  the  bottom  and  leave  their 
purpose  pure;  but  no  doubt  such  a  clarifying 
process  would  be  going  on  all  the  while.  The 
governor  and  his  council  faintly  remember  the 
pond,  for  they  went  a-fishing  there  when  they 


were  boys;  but  now  they  are  too  old  and  dig 
nified  to  go  a-fishing,  and  so  they  know  it  no 
more  forever.  Yet  even  they  expect  to  go  to 
heaven  at  last.  If  the  legislature  regards  it, 
it  is  chiefly  to  regulate  the  number  of  hooks  to 
be  used  there;  but  they  know  nothing  about 
the  hook  of  hooks  with  which  to  angle  for  the 
pond  itself,  empaling  the  legislature  for  a  bait. 
Thus,  even  in  civilized  communities,  the  em 
bryo  man  passes  through  the  hunter  stage  of 

I  have  found  repeatedly,  of  late  years,  that  I 
cannot  fish  without  falling  a  little  in  self-respect. 
I  have  tried  it  again  and  again.  I  have  skill  at 
it,  and,  like  many  of  my  fellows,  a  certain  in 
stinct  for  it,  which  revives  from  time  to  time; 
but  always  when  I  have  done  I  feel  that  it  would 
have  been  better  if  I  had  not  fished.  I  think 
that  I  do  not  mistake.  It  is  a  faint  intimation, 
yet  so  are  the  first  streaks  of  morning.  There  is 
unquestionably  this  instinct  in  me  which  be 
longs  to  the  lower  orders  of  creation;  yet  with 
every  year  I  am  less  a  fisherman,  though  with 
out  more  humanity  or  even  wisdom;  at  present 
I  am  no  fisherman  at  all.  But  I  see  that  if  I  were 
to  live  in  a  wilderness  I  should  again  be  tempted 
to  become  a  fisher  and  hunter  in  earnest.  Be 
sides,  there  is  something  essentially  unclean 
about  this  diet,  and  all  flesh,  and  I  began  to  see 
where  housework  commences,  and  whence  the 

284  WALDEN 

endeavor,  which  costs  so  much,  to  wear  a  tidy 
and  respectable  appearance,  each  day,  to  keep 
the  house  sweet  and  free  from  all  ill  odors  and 
sights.  Having  been  my  own  butcher  and  scul 
lion  and  cook,  as  well  as  the  gentleman  for  whom 
the  dishes  were  served  up,  I  can  speak  from  an 
unusually  complete  experience.  The  practical 
objection  to  animal  food  in  my  case  was  its  un- 
cleanness;  and,  besides,  when  I  had  caught 
and  cleaned  and  cooked  and  eaten  my  fish,  they 
seemed  not  to  have  fed  me  essentially.  It  was 
insignificant  and  unnecessary,  and  cost  more 
than  it  came  to.  A  little  bread  or  a  few  potatoes 
would  have  done  as  well,  with  less  trouble  and 
filth.  Like  many  of  my  contemporaries,  I  had 
rarely  for  many  years  used  animal  food,  or  tea, 
or  coffee,  &c. ;  not  so  much  because  of  any  ill 
effects  which  I  had  traced  to  them,  as  because 
they  were  not  agreeable  to  my  imagination.  The 
repugnance  to  animal  food  is  not  the  effect  of 
experience,  but  is  an  instinct.  It  appeared  more 
beautiful  to  live  low  and  fare  hard  in  many  re 
spects;  and  though  I  never  did  so,  I  went  far 
enough  to  please  my  imagination.  I  believe 
that  every  man  who  has  ever  been  earnest  to 
preserve  his  higher  or  poetic  faculties  in  the  best 
condition  has  been  particularly  inclined  to  ab 
stain  from  animal  food,  and  from  much  food  of 
any  kind.  It  is  a  significant  fact,  stated  by  en 
tomologists,  I  find  it  in  Kirby  and  Spence,  that 


"some  insects  in  their  perfect  state,  though 
furnished  with  organs  of  feeding,  make  no  use 
of  them;"  and  they  lay  it  down  as  "a  general 
rule,  that  almost  all  insects  in  this  state  eat  much 
less  than  in  that  of  larvse.  The  voracious  cater 
pillar  when  transformed  into  a  butterfly,"  .  .  . 
"and  the  gluttonous  maggot  when  become  a 
fly,"  content  themselves  with  a  drop  or  two  of 
honey  or  some  other  sweet  liquid.  The  abdo 
men  under  the  wings  of  the  butterfly  still  repre 
sents  the  larva.  This  is  the  tidbit  which  tempts 
his  insectivorous  fate.  The  gross  feeder  is  a 
man  in  the  larva  state;  and  there  are  whole 
nations  in  that  condition,  nations  without  fancy 
or  imagination,  whose  vast  abdomens  betray 

It  is  hard  to  provide  and  cook  so  simple  and 
clean  a  diet  as  will  not  offend  the  imagination ; 
but  this,  I  think,  is  to  be  fed  when  we  feed  the 
body;  they  should  both  sit  down  at  the  same 
table.  Yet  perhaps  this  may  be  done.  The 
fruits  eaten  temperately  need  not  make  us 
ashamed  of  our  appetites,  nor  interrupt  the 
worthiest  pursuits.  But  put  an  extra  condi 
ment  into  your  dish,  and  it  will  poison  you.  It 
is  not  worth  the  while  to  live  by  rich  cookery. 
Most  men  would  feel  shame  if  caught  preparing 
with  their  own  hands  precisely  such  a  dinner, 
whether  of  animal  or  vegetable  food,  as  is  every 
day  prepared  for  them  by  others.  Yet  till  this 

286  WALDEN 

is  otherwise  we  are  not  civilized,  and,  if  gentle 
men  and  ladies,  are  not  true  men  and  women. 
This  certainly  suggests  what  change  is  to  be 
made.  It  may  be  vain  to  ask  why  the  imagina 
tion  will  not  be  reconciled  to  flesh  and  fat.  I 
am  satisfied  that  it  is  not.  Is  it  not  a  reproach 
that  man  is  a  carnivorous  animal  ?  True,  he 
can  and  does  live,  in  a  great  measure,  by  prey 
ing  on  other  animals;  but  this  is  a  miserable 
w^ay,  —  as  any  one  who  will  go  to  snaring  rab 
bits,  or  slaughtering  lambs,  may  learn,  —  and 
he  will  be  regarded  as  a  benefactor  of  his  race 
who  shall  teach  man  to  confine  himself  to  a 
more  innocent  and  wholesome  diet.  Whatever 
my  own  practice  may  be,  I  have  no  doubt  that 
it  is  a  part  of  the  destiny  of  the  human  race,  in 
its  gradual  improvement,  to  leave  off  eating  ani 
mals,  as  surely  as  the  savage  tribes  have  left  off 
eating  each  other  when  they  came  in  contact 
with  the  more  civilized. 

If  one  listens  to  the  faintest  but  constant  sug 
gestions  of  his  genius,  which  are  certainly  true, 
he  sees  not  to  what  extremes,  or  even  insanity, 
it  may  lead  him ;  and  yet  that  way,  as  he  grows 
more  resolute  and  faithful,  his  road  lies.  The 
faintest  assured  objection  which  one  healthy 
man  feels  will  at  length  prevail  over  the  argu 
ments  and  customs  of  mankind.  No  man  ever 
followed  his  genius  till  it  misled  him.  Though 
the  result  were  bodily  weakness,  yet  perhaps  no 


one  can  say  that  the  consequences  were  to  be  re 
gretted,  for  these  were  a  life  in  conformity  to 
higher  principles.  If  the  day  and  the  night  are 
such  that  you  greet  them  with  joy,  and  life  emits 
a  fragrance  like  flowers  and  sweet-scented 
herbs,  is  more  elastic,  more  starry,  more  im 
mortal, -- that  is  your  success.  All  nature  is 
your  congratulation,  and  you  have  cause  mo 
mentarily  to  bless  yourself.  The  greatest  gains 
and  values  are  farthest  from  being  appreciated. 
We  easily  come  to  doubt  if  they  exist.  We 
soon  forget  them.  They  are  the  highest  reality. 
Perhaps  the  facts  most  astounding  and  most 
real  are  never  communicated  by  man  to  man. 
The  true  harvest  of  my  daily  life  is  some 
what  as  intangible  and  indescribable  as  the 
tints  of  morning  or  evening.  It  is  a  little  star- 
dust  caught,  a  segment  of  the  rainbow  which  I 
have  clutched. 

Yet,  for  my  part,  I  was  never  unusually 
squeamish;  I  could  sometimes  eat  a  fried  rat 
with  a  good  relish,  if  it  were  necessary.  I  am 
glad  to  have  drunk  water  so  long,  for  the  same 
reason  that  I  prefer  the  natural  sky  to  an  opium- 
eater's  heaven.  I  would  fain  keep  sober  always ; 
and  there  are  infinite  degrees  of  drunkenness. 
I  believe  that  water  is  the  only  drink  for  a  wise 
man ;  wine  is  not  so  noble  a  liquor ;  and  think 
of  dashing  the  hopes  of  a  morning  with  a  cup 
of  warm  coffee,  or  of  an  evening  with  a  dish  of 

288  WALDEN 

tea !  Ah,  how  low  I  fall  when  I  am  tempted  by 
them !  Even  music  may  be  intoxicating.  Such 
apparently  slight  causes  destroyed  Greece  and 
Rome,  and  will  destroy  England  and  America. 
Of  all  ebriosity,  who  does  not  prefer  to  be  in 
toxicated  by  the  air  he  breathes  ?  I  have  found 
it  to  be  the  most  serious  objection  to  coarse 
labors  long  continued,  that  they  compelled  me 
to  eat  and  drink  coarsely  also.  But  to  tell  the 
truth,  I  find  myself  at  present  somewhat  less 
particular  in  these  respects.  I  carry  less  religion 
to  the  table,  ask  no  blessing;  not  because  I  am 
wiser  than  I  was,  but,  I  am  obliged  to  confess, 
because,  however  much  it  is  to  be  regretted, 
with  years  I  have  grown  more  coarse  and  in 
different.  Perhaps  these  questions  are  enter 
tained  only  in  youth,  as  most  believe  of  poetry. 
My  practice  is  "nowhere,"  my  opinion  is  here. 
Nevertheless  I  am  far  from  regarding  myself  as 
one  of  those  privileged  ones  to  whom  the  Ved 
refers  when  it  says  that  "he  who  has  true  faith 
in  the  Omnipresent  Supreme  Being  may  eat  all 
that  exists,"  that  is,  is  not  bound  to  inquire  what 
is  his  food,  or  who  prepares  it ;  and  even  in  their 
case  it  is  to  be  observed,  as  a  Hindoo  commen 
tator  has  remarked,  that  the  Vedant  limits  this 
privilege  to  "the  time  of  distress." 

Who  has  not  sometimes  derived  an  inexpress 
ible  satisfaction  from  his  food  in  which  appetite 
had  no  share  ?  I  have  been  thrilled  to  think 


that  I  owed  a  mental  perception  to  the  com 
monly  gross  sense  of  taste,  that  I  have  been  in 
spired  through  the  palate,  that  some  berries 
which  I  had  eaten  on  a  hillside  had  fed  my 
genius.  "The  soul  not  being  mistress  of  her 
self,"  says  Thseng-tseu,  "one  looks,  and  one 
does  not  see ;  one  listens,  and  one  does  not  hear ; 
one  eats,  and  one  does  not  know  the  savor  of 
food."  He  who  distinguishes  the  true  savor  of 
his  food  can  never  be  a  glutton ;  he  who  does  not 
cannot  be  otherwise.  A  puritan  may  go  to  his 
brown-bread  crust  with  as  gross  an  appetite  as 
ever  an  alderman  to  his  turtle.  Not  that  food 
which  entereth  into  the  mouth  defileth  a  man, 
but  the  appetite  with  which  it  is  eaten.  It  is 
neither  the  quality  nor  the  quantity,  but  the  de 
votion  to  sensual  savors;  when  that  which  is 
eaten  is  not  a  viand  to  sustain  our  animal,  or  in 
spire  our  spiritual  life,  but  food  for  the  worms 
that  possess  us.  If  the  hunter  has  a  taste  for 
mud-turtles,  muskrats,  and  other  such  savage 
tidbits,  the  fine  lady  indulges  a  taste  for  jelly 
made  of  a  calf's  foot,  or  for  sardines  from  over 
the  sea,  and  they  are  even.  He  goes  to  the  mill- 
pond,  she  to  her  preserve-pot.  The  wonder  is 
how  they,  how  you  and  I,  can  live  this  slimy 
beastly  life,  eating  and  drinking. 

Our  whole  life  is  startlingly  moral.  There  is 
never  an  instant's  truce  between  virtue  and 
vice.  Goodness  is  the  only  investment  that  never 


290  WALDEN 

fails.  In  the  music  of  the  harp  which  trembles 
round  the  world  it  is  the  insisting  on  this  which 
thrills  us.  The  harp  is  the  travelling  patterer 
for  the  Universe's  Insurance  Company,  recom 
mending  its  laws,  and  our  little  goodness  is  all 
the  assessment  that  we  pay.  Though  the  youth 
at  last  grows  indifferent,  the  laws  of  the  universe 
are  not  indifferent,  but  are  forever  on  the  side 
of  the  most  sensitive.  Listen  to  every  zephyr 
for  some  reproof,  for  it  is  surely  there,  and 
he  is  unfortunate  who  does  not  hear  it.  We 
cannot  touch  a  string  or  move  a  stop  but  the 
charming  moral  transfixes  us.  Many  an  irk 
some  noise,  go  a  long  way  off,  is  heard  as 
music,  a  proud  sweet  satire  on  the  meanness 
of  our  lives. 

We  are  conscious  of  an  animal  in  us,  which 
awakens  in  proportion  as  our  higher  nature 
slumbers.  It  is  reptile  and  sensual,  and  perhaps 
cannot  be  wholly  expelled;  like  the  worms 
which,  even  in  life  and  health,  occupy  our  bod 
ies.  Possibly  we  may  withdraw  from  it,  but 
never  change  its  nature.  I  fear  that  it  may  en 
joy  a  certain  health  of  its  own ;  that  we  may  be 
well,  yet  not  pure.  The  other  day  I  picked  up 
the  lower  jaw  of  a  hog,  with  white  and  sound 
teeth  and  tusks,  which  suggested  that  there 
was  an  animal  health  and  vigor  distinct  from 
the  spiritual.  This  creature  succeeded  by  other 
means  than  temperance  and  purity.  'That  in 


which  men  differ  from  brute  beasts,"  says  Men- 
cius,  "is  a  thing  very  inconsiderable ;  the  com 
mon  herd  lose  it  very  soon;  superior  men 
preserve  it  carefully."  Who  knows  what  sort  of 
life  would  result  if  we  had  attained  to  purity  ? 
If  I  knew  so  wise  a  man  as  could  teach  me  purity 
I  would  go  to  seek  him  forthwith.  "A  command 
over  our  passions,  and  over  the  external  senses 
of  the  body,  and  good  acts,  are  declared  by  the 
Ved  to  be  indispensable  in  the  mind's  approxi 
mation  to  God."  Yet  the  spirit  can  for  the  time 
pervade  and  control  every  member  and  function 
of  the  body,  and  transmute  what  in  form  is  the 
grossest  sensuality  into  purity  and  devotion. 
The  generative  energy,  which,  when  we  are  loose, 
dissipates  and  makes  us  unclean,  when  we  are 
continent  invigorates  and  inspires  us.  Chastity 
is  the  flowering  of  man;  and  what  are  called 
Genius,  Heroism,  Holiness,  and  the  like,  are 
but  various  fruits  which  succeed  it.  Man  flows 
at  once  to  God  when  the  channel  of  purity  is 
open.  By  turns  our  purity  inspires  and  our  im 
purity  casts  us  down.  He  is  blessed  who  is  as 
sured  that  the  animal  is  dying  out  in  him  day 
by  day,  and  the  divine  being  established.  Per 
haps  there  is  none  but  has  cause  for  shame  on 
account  of  the  inferior  and  brutish  nature  to 
which  he  is  allied.  I  fear  that  we  are  such  gods 
or  demigods  only  as  fauns  and  satyrs,  the  divine 
allied  to  beasts,  the  creatures  of  appetite,  and 

292  WALDEN 

that,  to  some  extent,  our  very  life  is  our  dis 
grace.  — 

"How  nappy's  he  who  hath  due  place  assigned 
To  his  beasts  and  disaforested  his  mind ! 

Can  use  his  horse,  goat,  wolf,  and  ev'ry  beast, 

And  is  not  ass  himself  to  all  the  rest ! 

Else  man  not  only  is  the  herd  of  swine, 

But  he's  those  devils  too  which  did  incline 

Them  to  a  headlong  rage,  and  made  them  worse." 

All  sensuality  is  one,  though  it  takes  many 
forms ;  all  purity  is  one.  It  is  the  same  whether 
a  man  eat,  or  drink,  or  cohabit,  or  sleep  sensu 
ally.  They  are  but  one  appetite,  and  we  only 
need  to  see  a  person  do  any  one  of  these  things 
to  know  how  great  a  sensualist  he  is.  The 
impure  can  neither  stand  nor  sit  with  purity. 
When  the  reptile  is  attacked  at  one  mouth  of 
his  burrow,  he  shows  himself  at  another.  If 
you  would  be  chaste,  you  must  be  temperate. 
What  is  chastity  ?  How  shall  a  man  know  if  he 
is  chaste?  He  shall  not  know  it.  We  have 
heard  of  this  virtue,  but  we  know  not  what  it  is. 
We  speak  conformably  to  the  rumor  which  we 
have  heard.  From  exertion  come  wisdom  and 
purity;  from  sloth  ignorance  and  sensuality. 
In  the  student  sensuality  is  a  sluggish  habit  of 
mind.  An  unclean  person  is  universally  a  sloth 
ful  one,  one  who  sits  by  a  stove,  whom  the  sun 
shines  on  prostrate,  who  reposes  without  being 


fatigued.  If  you  would  avoid  uncleanness  and 
all  the  sins,  work  earnestly,  though  it  be  at  clean 
ing  a  stable.  Nature  is  hard  to  be  overcome, 
but  she  must  be  overcome.  What  avails  it  that 
you  are  Christian,  if  you  are  not  purer  than  the 
heathen,  if  you  deny  yourself  no  more,  if  you 
are  not  more  religious  ?  I  know  of  many  systems 
of  religion  esteemed  heathenish  whose  precepts 
fill  the  reader  with  shame,  and  provoke  him  to 
new  endeavors,  though  it  be  to  the  performance 
of  rites  merely. 

I  hesitate  to  say  these  things,  but  it  is  not 
because  of  the  subject,  —  I  care  not  how  obscene 
my  words  are,  —  but  because  I  cannot  speak 
of  them  without  betraying  my  impurity.  We 
discourse  freely  without  shame  of  one  form  of 
sensuality,  and  are  silent  about  another.  We 
are  so  degraded  that  we  cannot  speak  simply  of 
the  necessary  functions  of  human  nature.  In 
earlier  ages,  in  some  countries,  every  function 
was  reverently  spoken  of  and  regulated  by  law. 
Nothing  was  too  trivial  for  the  Hindoo  law 
giver,  however  offensive  it  may  be  to  modern 
taste.  He  teaches  how  to  eat,  drink,  cohabit, 
void  excrement  and  urine,  and  the  like,  elevating 
what  is  mean,  and  does  not  falsely  excuse  him 
self  by  calling  these  things  trifles. 

Every  man  is  the  builder  of  a  temple,  called 
his  body,  to  the  god  he  worships,  after  a  style 
purely  his  own,  nor  can  he  get  off  by  hammering 

294  WALDEN 

marble  instead.  We  are  all  sculptors  and  paint 
ers,  and  our  material  is  our  own  flesh  and  blood 
and  bones.  Any  nobleness  begins  at  once  to 
refine  a  man's  features,  any  meanness  or  sensu 
ality  to  imbrute  them. 

John  Farmer  sat  at  his  door  one  September 
evening,  after  a  hard  day's  work,  his  mind  still 
running  on  his  labor  more  or  less.  Having 
bathed  he  sat  down  to  recreate  his  intellectual 
man.  It  was  a  rather  cool  evening,  and  some 
of  his  neighbors  were  apprehending  a  frost.  He 
had  not  attended  to  the  train  of  his  thoughts 
long  when  he  heard  some  one  playing  on  a  flute, 
and  that  sound  harmonized  with  his  mood. 
Still  he  thought  of  his  work;  but  the  burden  of 
his  thought  was  that  though  this  kept  running 
in  his  head,  and  he  found  himself  planning  and 
contriving  it  against  his  will,  yet  it  concerned 
him  very  little.  It  was  no  more  than  the  scurf 
of  his  skin,  which  was  constantly  shuffled  off. 
But  the  notes  of  the  flute  came  home  to  his  ears 
out  of  a  different  sphere  from  that  he  worked  in, 
and  suggested  work  for  certain  faculties  which 
slumbered  in  him.  They  gently  did  away  with 
the  street,  and  the  village,  and  the  state  in  which 
he  lived.  A  voice  said  to  him,  —  Why  do  you 
stay  here  and  live  this  mean  moiling  life,  when 
a  glorious  existence  is  possible  for  you?  Those 
same  stars  twinkle  over  other  fields  than 
these.  —  But  how  to  come  out  of  this  condi- 


tion  and  actually  migrate  thither?  All  that  he 
could  think  of  was  to  practise  some  new  auster 
ity,  to  let  his  mind  descend  into  his  body  and 
redeem  it,  and  treat  himself  with  ever  increasing 



SOMETIMES  I  had  a  companion  in   my 
fishing,  who  came  through  the  village  to 
my  house  from  the  other  side  of  the  town, 
and  the  catching  of  the  dinner  was  as  much  a 
social  exercise  as  the  eating  of  it. 

Hermit.  I  wonder  what  the  world  is  doing 
now.  I  have  not  heard  so  much  as  a  locust  over 
the  sweet-fern  these  three  hours.  The  pigeons 
are  all  asleep  upon  their  roosts,  —  no  flutter 
from  them.  Was  that  a  farmer's  noon  horn 
which  sounded  from  beyond  the  woods  just  now  ? 
The  hands  are  coming  in  to  boiled  salt  beef  and 
cider  and  Indian  bread.  Why  will  men  worry 
themselves  so?  He  that  does  not  eat  need  not 
work.  I  wonder  how  much  they  have  reaped. 
Who  would  live  there  where  a  body  can  never 
think  for  the  barking  of  Bose?  And  oh,  the 
housekeeping !  to  keep  bright  the  devil's  door 
knobs,  and  scour  his  tubs  this  bright  day ! 
Better  not  keep  a  house.  Say,  some  hollow 
tree;  and  then  for  morning  calls  and  dinner 
parties  !  Only  a  wood-pecker  tapping.  Oh, 
they  swarm;  the  sun  is  too  warm  there:  they 


are  born  too  far  into  life  for  me.  I  have  water 
from  the  spring,  and  a  loaf  of  brown  bread  on 
the  shelf.  —  Hark !  I  hear  a  rustling  of  the 
leaves.  Is  it  some  ill-fed  village  hound  yielding 
to  the  instinct  of  the  chase  ?  or  the  lost  pig 
which  is  said  to  be  in  these  woods,  whose  tracks 
I  saw  after  the  rain?  It  comes  on  apace;  my 
sumachs  and  sweet-briers  tremble.  —  Eh,  Mr. 
Poet,  is  it  you  ?  How  do  you  like  the  world  to 
day  ? 

Poet.  See  those  clouds ;  how  they  hang ! 
That's  the  greatest  thing  I  have  seen  to-day. 
There's  nothing  like  it  in  old  paintings,  nothing 
like  it  in  foreign  lands,  —  unless  when  we  were 
off  the  coast  of  Spain.  That's  a  true  Mediter 
ranean  sky.  I  thought,  as  I  have  my  living  to 
get,  and  have  not  eaten  to-day,  that  I  might  go 
a-fishing.  That's  the  true  industry  for  poets. 
It  is  the  only  trade  I  have  learned.  Come, 
let's  along. 

Hermit.  I  cannot  resist.  My  brown  bread 
will  soon  be  gone.  I  will  go  with  you  gladly  soon, 
but  I  am  just  concluding  a  serious  meditation. 
I  think  that  I  am  near  the  end  of  it.  Leave  me 
alone,  then,  for  a  while.  But  that  we  may  not 
be  delayed,  you  shall  be  digging  the  bait  mean 
while.  Angle- worms  are  rarely  to  be  met  with 
in  these  parts,  where  the  soil  was  never  fattened 
with  manure;  the  race  is  nearly  extinct.  The 
sport  of  digging  the  bait  is  nearly  equal  to  that 

298  WALDEN 

of  catching  the  fish,  when  one's  appetite  is  not 
too  keen ;  and  this  you  may  have  all  to  yourself 
to-day.  I  would  advise  you  to  set  in  the  spade 
down  yonder  among  the  ground-nuts,  where 
you  see  the  johnswort  waving.  I  think  that  I 
may  warrant  you  one  worm  to  every  three  sods 
you  turn  up,  if  you  look  well  in  among  the  roots 
of  the  grass,  as  if  you  were  weeding.  Or,  if 
you  choose  to  go  farther,  it  will  not  be  unwise, 
for  I  have  found  the  increase  of  fair  bait  to  be 
very  nearly  as  the  squares  of  the  distances. 

Hermit  alone.  Let  me  see,  where  was  I  ? 
Methinks  I  was  nearly  in  this  frame  of  mind; 
the  world  lay  about  at  this  angle.  Shall  I  go  to 
heaven  or  a-fishing?  If  I  should  soon  bring 
this  meditation  to  an  end,  would  another  so 
sweet  occasion  be  likely  to  offer  ?  I  was  as  near 
being  resolved  into  the  essence  of  things  as  ever  I 
was  in  my  life.  I  fear  my  thoughts  will  not  come 
back  to  me.  If  it  would  do  any  good,  I  would 
whistle  for  them.  When  they  make  us  an  offer, 
is  it  wise  to  say,  We  will  think  of  it  ?  My  thoughts 
have  left  no  track,  and  I  cannot  find  the  path 
again.  What  was  it  that  I  was  thinking  of? 
It  was  a  very  hazy  day.  I  will  just  try  these 
three  sentences  of  Con-fut-see;  they  may  fetch 
that  state  about  again.  I  know  not  whether  it 
was  the  dumps  or  a  budding  ecstasy.  Mem. 
There  never  is  but  one  opportunity  of  a  kind. 

Poet.     How  now,  Hermit,  is  it  too  soon  ?     I 


have  got  just  thirteen  whole  ones,  besides  several 
which  are  imperfect  or  undersized;  but  they 
will  do  for  the  smaller  fry;  they  do  not  cover 
up  the  hook  so  much.  Those  village  worms  are 
quite  too  large;  a  shiner  may  make  a  meal  off 
one  without  finding  the  skewer. 

Hermit.  Well,  then,  let's  be  off.  Shall  we 
to  the  Concord  ?  There 's  good  sport  there  if 
the  water  be  not  too  high. 

Why  do  precisely  these  objects  which  we  be 
hold  make  a  world?  Why  has  man  just  these 
species  of  animals  for  his  neighbors ;  as  if  noth 
ing  but  a  mouse  could  have  filled  this  crevice  ? 
I  suspect  that  Pilpay  &  Co.  have  put  animals 
to  their  best  use,  for  they  are  all  beasts  of  burden, 
in  a  sense,  made  to  carry  some  portion  of  our 

The  mice  which  haunted  my  house  were  not 
the  common  ones,  which  are  said  to  have  been 
introduced  into  the  country,  but  a  wild  native 
kind  not  found  in  the  village.  I  sent  one  to  a 
distinguished  naturalist,  and  it  interested  him 
much.  When  I  was  building,  one  of  these  had  its 
nest  underneath  the  house,  and  before  I  had 
laid  the  second  floor,  and  swept  out  the  shavings, 
would  come  out  regularly  at  lunch  time  and  pick 
up  the  crumbs  at  my  feet.  It  probably  had 
never  seen  a  man  before;  and  it  soon  became 
quite  familiar,  and  would  run  over  my  shoes  and 

300  WALDEN 

up  my  clothes.  It  could  readily  ascend  the 
sides  of  the  room  by  short  impulses,  like  a 
squirrel,  which  it  resembled  in  its  motions.  At 
length,  as  I  leaned  with  my  elbow  on  the  bench 
one  day,  it  ran  up  my  clothes,  and  along  my 
sleeve,  and  round  and  round  the  paper  which 
held  my  dinner,  while  I  kept  the  latter  close, 
and  dodged  and  played  at  bo-peep  with  it 
and  when  at  last  I  held  still  a  piece  of  cheese 
between  my  thumb  and  finger,  it  came  and  nib 
bled  it,  sitting  in  my  hand,  and  afterward 
cleaned  its  face  and  paws,  like  a  fly,  and  walked 

A  phcebe  soon  built  in  my  shed,  and  a  robin 
for  protection  in  a  pine  which  grew  against  the 
house.  In  June  the  partridge  (Tetrao  umbellus), 
which  is  so  shy  a  bird,  led  her  brood  past  my 
windows,  from  the  woods  in  the  rear  to  the  front 
of  my  house,  clucking  and  calling  to  them  like 
a  hen,  and  in  all  her  behavior  proving  herself 
the  hen  of  the  woods.  The  young  suddenly 
disperse  on  your  approach,  at  a  signal  from  the 
mother,  as  if  a  whirlwind  had  swept  them  away, 
and  they  so  exactly  resemble  the  dried  leaves 
and  twigs  that  many  a  traveller  has  placed  his 
foot  in  the  midst  of  a  brood,  and  heard  the  whir 
of  the  old  bird  as  she  flew  off,  and  her  anxious 
calls  and  mewing,  or  seen  her  trail  her  wings 
to  attract  his  attention,  without  suspecting  their 
neighborhood.  The  parent  will  sometimes  roll 


and  spin  round  before  you  in  such  a  dishabille, 
that  you  cannot,  for  a  few  moments,  detect  what 
kind  of  creature  it  is.  The  young  squat  still 
and  flat,  often  running  their  heads  under  a  leaf, 
and  mind  only  their  mother's  directions  given 
from  a  distance,  nor  will  your  approach  make 
them  run  again  and  betray  themselves.  You 
may  even  tread  on  them,  or  have  your  eyes  on 
them  for  a  minute,  without  discovering  them.  I 
have  held  them  in  my  open  hand  at  such  a  time, 
and  still  their  only  care,  obedient  to  their  mother 
and  their  instinct,  was  to  squat  there  without 
fear  or  trembling.  So  perfect  is  this  instinct, 
that  once,  when  I  had  laid  them  on  the  leaves 
again,  and  one  accidentally  fell  on  its  side,  it 
was  found  with  the  rest  in  exactly  the  same 
position  ten  minutes  afterward.  They  are  not 
callow  like  the  young  of  most  birds,  but  more 
perfectly  developed  and  precocious  even  than 
chickens.  The  remarkably  adult  yet  innocent 
expression  of  their  open  and  serene  eyes  is  very 
memorable.  All  intelligence  seems  reflected  in 
them.  They  suggest  not  merely  the  purity  of 
infancy,  but  a  wisdom  clarified  by  experience. 
Such  an  eye  was  not  born  when  the  bird  was, 
but  is  coeval  with  the  sky  it  reflects.  The  woods 
do  not  yield  another  such  gem.  The  traveller 
does  not  often  look  into  such  a  limpid  well.  The 
ignorant  or  reckless  sportsman  often  shoots  the 
parent  at  such  a  time,  and  leaves  these  inno- 

302  WALDEN 

cents  to  fall  a  prey  to  some  prowling  beast  or 
bird,  or  gradually  mingle  with  the  decaying 
leaves  which  they  so  much  resemble.  It  is 
said  that  when  hatched  by  a  hen  they  will  di 
rectly  disperse  on  some  alarm,  and  so  are  lost, 
for  they  never  hear  the  mother's  call  which 
gathers  them  again.  These  were  my  hens  and 

It  is  remarkable  how  many  creatures  live 
wild  and  free  though  secret  in  the  woods,  and 
still  sustain  themselves  in  the  neighborhood  of 
towns,  suspected  by  hunters  only.  How  retired 
the  otter  manages  to  live  here !  He  grows  to 
be  four  feet  long,  as  big  as  a  small  boy,  perhaps 
without  any  human  being  getting  a  glimpse  of 
him.  I  formerly  saw  the  raccoon  in  the  woods 
behind  where  my  house  is  built,  and  prob 
ably  still  heard  their  whinnering  at  night.  Com 
monly  I  rested  an  hour  or  two  in  the  shade  at 
noon,  after  planting,  and  ate  my  lunch,  and 
read  a  little  by  a  spring  which  was  the  source  of 
a  swamp  and  of  a  brook,  oozing  from  under 
Brister's  Hill,  half  a  mile  from  my  field.  The 
approach  to  this  was  through  a  succession  of 
descending  grassy  hollows,  full  of  young  pitch- 
pines,  into  a  larger  wood  about  the  swamp. 
There,  in  a  very  secluded  and  shaded  spot,  under 
a  spreading  white-pine,  there  was  yet  a  clean 
firm  sward  to  sit  on.  I  had  dug  out  the  spring 
and  made  a  well  of  clear  gray  water,  where  I 

Brister's  Spring 


could  dip  up  a  pailful  without  roiling  it,  and 
thither  I  went  for  this  purpose  almost  every 
day  in  midsummer,  when  the  pond  was  warmest. 
Thither  too  the  wood-cock  led  her  brood,  to 
probe  the  mud  for  worms,  flying  but  a  foot  above 
them  down  the  bank,  while  they  ran  in  a  troop 
beneath;  but  at  last,  spying  me,  she  would 
leave  her  young  and  circle  round  and  round  me, 
nearer  and  nearer  till  within  four  or  five  feet, 
pretending  broken  wings  and  legs,  to  attract  my 
attention,  and  get  off  her  young,  who  would 
already  have  taken  up  their  march,  with  faint 
wiry  peep,  single  file  through  the  swamp,  as  she 
directed.  Or  I  heard  the  peep  of  the  young 
when  I  could  not  see  the  parent  bird.  There 
too  the  turtle-doves  sat  over  the  spring,  or 
fluttered  from  bough  to  bough  of  the  soft  white- 
pines  over  my  head ;  or  the  red  squirrel,  cours 
ing  down  the  nearest  bough,  was  particularly 
familiar  and  inquisitive.  You  only  need  sit  still 
long  enough  in  some  attractive  spot  in  the  woods 
that  all  its  inhabitants  may  exhibit  themselves 
to  you  by  turns. 

I  was  witness  to  events  of  a  less  peaceful 
character.  One  day  when  I  went  out  to  my 
wood-pile,  or  rather  my  pile  of  stumps,  I  ob 
served  two  large  ants,  the  one  red,  the  other 
much  larger,  nearly  half  an  inch  long,  and  black, 
fiercely  contending  with  one  another.  Having 
once  got  hold  they  never  let  go,  but  struggled 

304  WALDEN 

and  wrestled  and  rolled  on  the  chips  incessantly. 
Looking  farther,  I  was  surprised  to  find  that  the 
chips  were  covered  with  such  combatants,  that 
it  was  not  a  duellum,  but  a  bellum,  a  war  between 
two  races  of  ants,  the  red  always  pitted  against 
the  black,  and  frequently  two  red  ones  to  one 
black.  The  legions  of  these  Myrmidons  cov 
ered  all  the  hills  and  vales  in  my  wood-yard, 
and  the  ground  was  already  strewn  with  the 
dead  and  dying,  both  red  and  black.  It  was 
the  only  battle  which  I  have  ever  witnessed,  the 
only  battle-field  I  ever  trod  while  the  battle  was 
raging;  internecine  war;  the  red  republicans 
on  the  one  hand,  and  the  black  imperialists  on 
the  other.  On  every  side  they  were  engaged  in 
deadly  combat,  yet  without  any  noise  that  I 
could  hear,  and  human  soldiers  never  fought  so 
resolutely.  I  watched  a  couple  that  were  fast 
locked  in  each  other's  embraces,  in  a  little  sunny 
valley  amid  the  chips,  now  at  noonday  prepared 
to  fight  till  the  sun  went  down,  or  life  went  out. 
The  smaller  red  champion  had  fastened  himself 
like  a  vice  to  his  adversary's  front,  and  through 
all  the  tumblings  on  that  field  never  for  an  in 
stant  ceased  to  gnaw  at  one  of  his  feelers  near 
the  root,  having  already  caused  the  other  to  go 
by  the  board;  while  the  stronger  black  one 
dashed  him  from  side  to  side,  and,  as  I  saw  on 
looking  nearer,  had  already  divested  him  of 
several  of  his  members.  They  fought  with  more 


pertinacity  than  bull-dogs.  Neither  manifested 
the  least  disposition  to  retreat.  It  was  evident 
that  their  battle-cry  was  Conquer  or  die.  In  the 
meanwhile  there  came  along  a  single  red  ant  on 
the  hill  side  of  this  valley,  evidently  full  of  ex 
citement,  who  either  had  despatched  his  foe, 
or  had  not  yet  taken  part  in  the  battle;  prob 
ably  the  latter,  for  he  had  lost  none  of  his  limbs ; 
whose  mother  had  charged  him  to  return  with 
his  shield  or  upon  it.  Or  perchance  he  was 
some  Achilles,  who  had  nourished  his  wrath 
apart,  and  had  now  come  to  avenge  or  rescue 
his  Patroclus.  He  saw  this  unequal  combat 
from  afar,  —  for  the  blacks  were  nearly  twice 
the  size  of  the  red,  —  he  drew  near  with  rapid 
pace  till  he  stood  on  his  guard  within  half  an 
inch  of  the  combatants;  then,  watching  his  op 
portunity,  he  sprang  upon  the  black  warrior, 
and  commenced  his  operations  near  the  root 
of  his  right  fore-leg,  leaving  the  foe  to  select 
among  his  own  members;  and  so  there  were 
three  united  for  life,  as  if  a  new  kind  of  attrac 
tion  had  been  invented  which  put  all  other  locks 
and  cements  to  shame.  I  should  not  have 
wondered  by  this  time  to  find  that  they  had  their 
respective  musical  bands  stationed  on  some 
eminent  chip,  and  playing  their  national  airs 
the  while,  to  excite  the  slow  and  cheer  the  dying 
combatants.  I  was  myself  excited  somewhat 
even  as  if  they  had  been  men.  The  more  you 

306  WALDEN 

think  of  it,  the  less  the  difference.  And  cer 
tainly  there  is  not  the  fight  recorded  in  Con 
cord  history,  at  least,  if  in  the  history  of  America, 
that  will  bear  a  moment's  comparison  with  this, 
whether  for  the  numbers  engaged  in  it,  or  for 
the  patriotism  and  heroism  displayed.  For 
numbers  and  for  carnage  it  was  an  Austerlitz 
or  Dresden.  Concord  Fight !  Two  killed  on 
the  patriots'  side,  and  Luther  Blanchard 
wounded !  Why,  here  every  ant  was  a  But- 
trick,  —  "Fire  !  for  God's  sake  fire  !"  —  and 
thousands  shared  the  fate  of  Davis  and  Hosmer. 
There  was  not  one  hireling  there.  I  have  no 
doubt  that  it  was  a  principle  they  fought  for,  as 
much  as  our  ancestors,  and  not  to  avoid  a  three 
penny  tax  on  their  tea;  and  the  results  of  this 
battle  wrill  be  as  important  and  memorable  to 
those  whom  it  concerns  as  those  of  the  battle  of 
Bunker  Hill,  at  least. 

I  took  up  the  chip  on  which  the  three  I  have 
particularly  described  were  struggling,  carried 
it  into  my  house,  and  placed  it  under  a  tumbler 
on  my  window-sill,  in  order  to  see  the  issue. 
Holding  a  microscope  to  the  first-mentioned 
red  ant,  I  saw  that,  though  he  was  assiduously 
gnawing  at  the  near  fore-leg  of  his  enemy,  hav 
ing  severed  his  remaining  feeler,  his  own  breast 
was  all  torn  away,  exposing  what  vitals  he  had 
there  to  the  jaws  of  the  black  warrior,  whose 
breastplate  was  apparently  too  thick  for  him  to 


pierce ;  and  the  dark  carbuncles  of  the  sufferer's 
eyes  shone  with  ferocity  such  as  war  only  could 
excite.  They  struggled  half  an  hour  longer 
under  the  tumbler,  and  when  I  looked  again 
the  black  soldier  had  severed  the  heads  of  his 
foes  from  their  bodies,  and  the  still  living  heads 
were  hanging  on  either  side  of  him  like  ghastly 
trophies  at  his  saddle-bow,  still  apparently  as 
firmly  fastened  as  ever,,  and  he  was  endeavor 
ing  with  feeble  struggles,  being  without  feelers 
and  with  only  the  remnant  of  a  leg,  and  I  know 
not  how  many  other  wounds,  to  divest  himself 
of  them;  which  at  length,  after  half  an  hour 
more,  he  accomplished.  I  raised  the  glass,  and 
he  went  off  over  the  window-sill  in  that  crippled 
state.  Whether  he  finally  survived  that  com 
bat,  and  spent  the  remainder  of  his  days  in  some 
Hotel  des  Invalides,  I  do  not  know;  but  I 
thought  that  his  industry  would  not  be  worth 
much  thereafter.  I  never  learned  which  party 
was  victorious,  nor  the  cause  of  the  war;  but  I 
felt  for  the  rest  of  that  day  as  if  I  had  had  my 
feelings  excited  and  harrowed  by  witnessing 
the  struggle,  the  ferocity  and  carnage,  of  a  hu 
man  battle  before  my  door. 

Kirby  and  Spence  tell  us  that  the  battles  of 
ants  have  long  been  celebrated  and  the  date  of 
them  recorded,  though  they  say  that  Huber  is 
the  only  modern  author  who  appears  to  have 
witnessed  them.  "^Eneas  Sylvius,"  say  they, 

308  WALDEN 

"after  giving  a  very  circumstantial  account  of 
one  contested  with  great  obstinacy  by  a  great 
and  small  species  on  the  trunk  of  a  pear  tree," 
adds  that  "  'This  action  was  fought  in  the  pontifi 
cate  of  Eugenius  the  Fourth,  in  the  presence  of 
Nicholas  Pistoriensis,  an  eminent  lawyer,  who 
related  the  whole  history  of  the  battle  with  the 
greatest  fidelity.'  A  similar  engagement  be 
tween  great  and  small  ants  is  recorded  by  Olaus 
Magnus,  in  which  the  small  ones,  being  victori 
ous,  are  said  to  have  buried  the  bodies  of  their 
own  soldiers,  but  left  those  of  their  giant  ene 
mies  a  prey  to  the  birds.  This  event  happened 
previous  to  the  expulsion  of  the  tyrant  Christiern 
the  Second  from  Sweden."  The  battle  which  I 
witnessed  took  place  in  the  Presidency  of  Polk, 
five  years  before  the  passage  of  Webster's  Fugi 
tive-Slave  Bill. 

Many  a  village  Bose,  fit  only  to  course  a  mud- 
turtle  in  a  victualling  cellar,  sported  his  heavy 
quarters  in  the  woods,  without  the  knowledge 
of  his  master,  and  ineffectually  smelled  at  old 
fox  burrows  and  woodchucks'  holes;  led  per 
chance  by  some  slight  cur  which  nimbly  threaded 
the  wood,  and  might  still  inspire  a  natural  ter 
ror  in  its  denizens;  now  far  behind  his  guide, 
barking  like  a  canine  bull  toward  some  small 
squirrel  which  had  treed  itself  for  scrutiny,  then, 
cantering  off,  bending  the  bushes  with  his 
weight,  imagining  that  he  is  on  the  track  of 


some  stray  member  of  the  jerbilla  family.  Once 
I  was  surprised  to  see  a  cat  walking  along  the 
stony  shore  of  the  pond,  for  they  rarely  wander 
so  far  from  home.  The  surprise  was  mutual. 
Nevertheless  the  most  domestic  cat,  which  has 
lain  on  a  rug  all  her  days,  appears  quite  at  home 
in  the  woods,  and,  by  her  sly  and  stealthy  be 
havior,  proves  herself  more  native  there  than 
the  regular  inhabitants.  Once,  when  berrying, 
I  met  with  a  cat  with  young  kittens  in  the  woods, 
quite  wild,  and  they  all,  like  their  mother,  had 
their  backs  up  and  were  fiercely  spitting  at  me. 
A  few  years  before  I  lived  in  the  woods  there 
was  what  was  called  a  "winged  cat"  in  one  of 
the  farm-houses  in  Lincoln  nearest  the  pond, 
Mr.  Gilian  Baker's.  When  I  called  to  see  her  in 
June,  1842,  she  was  gone  a-hunting  in  the  woods, 
as  was  her  wont  (I  am  not  sure  whether  it  was  a 
male  or  female,  and  so  use  the  more  common 
pronoun) ,  but  her  mistress  told  me  that  she  came 
into  the  neighborhood  a  little  more  than  a  year 
before,  in  April,  and  was  finally  taken  into  their 
house;  that  she  was  of  a  dark  brownish  gray 
color,  with  a  white  spot  on  her  throat,  and  white 
feet,  and  had  a  large  bushy  tail  like  a  fox;  that 
in  the  winter  the  fur  grew  thick  and  flatted  out 
along  her  sides,  forming  strips  ten  or  twelve 
inches  long  by  two  and  a  half  wide,  and  under 
her  chin  like  a  muff,  the  upper  side  loose,  the 
under  matted  like  felt,  and  in  the  spring  these 

310  WALDEN 

appendages  dropped  off.  They  gave  me  a  pair 
of  her  "wings,"  which  I  keep  still.  There  is  no 
appearance  of  a  membrane  about  them.  Some 
thought  it  was  part  flying  squirrel  or  some  other 
wild  animal,  which  is  not  impossible,  for,  ac 
cording  to  naturalists,  prolific  hybrids  have  been 
produced  by  the  union  of  the  marten  and  do 
mestic  cat.  This  would  have  been  the  right  kind 
of  cat  for  me  to  keep,  if  I  had  kept  any ;  for  why 
should  not  a  poet's  cat  be  winged  as  well  as  his 
horse  ? 

In  the  fall  the  loon  (Colynibus  glacialis)  came, 
as  usual,  to  moult  and  bathe  in  the  pond,  mak 
ing  the  woods  ring  with  his  wild  laughter  be 
fore  I  had  risen.  At  rumor  of  his  arrival  all  the 
Mill-dam  sportsmen  are  on  the  alert,  in  gigs  and 
on  foot,  two  by  two  and  three  by  three,  with 
patent  rifles  and  conical  balls  and  spy-glasses. 
They  come  rustling  through  the  woods  like  au 
tumn  leaves,  at  least  ten  men  to  one  loon.  Some 
station  themselves  on  this  side  of  the  pond, 
some  on  that,  for  the  poor  bird  cannot  be  om 
nipresent;  if  he  dive  here  he  must  come  up 
there.  But  now  the  kind  October  wind  rises, 
rustling  the  leaves  and  rippling  the  surface  of 
the  water,  so  that  no  loon  can  be  heard  or  seen, 
though  his  foes  sweep  the  pond  with  spy-glasses, 
and  make  the  woods  resound  with  their  dis 
charges.  The  waves  generously  rise  and  dash 
angrily,  taking  sides  with  all  water-fowl,  and  our 


sportsmen  must  beat  a  retreat  to  town  and  shop 
and  unfinished  jobs.  But  they  were  too  often 
successful.  When  I  went  to  get  a  pail  of  water 
early  in  the  morning  I  frequently  saw  this 
stately  bird  sailing  out  of  my  cove  within  a  few 
rods.  If  I  endeavored  to  overtake  him  in  a  boat, 
in  order  to  see  how  he  would  manoeuvre,  he 
would  dive  and  be  completely  lost,  so  that  I  did 
not  discover  him  again,  sometimes,  till  the  latter 
part  of  the  day.  But  I  was  more  than  a  match 
for  him  on  the  surface.  He  commonly  went  off 
in  a  rain. 

As  I  was  paddling  along  the  north  shore  one 
very  calm  October  afternoon,  for  such  days  es 
pecially  they  settle  on  to  the  lakes,  like  the  milk 
weed  down,  having  looked  in  vain  over  the  pond 
for  a  loon,  suddenly  one,  sailing  out  from  the 
shore  toward  the  middle  a  few  rods  in  front  of 
me,  set  up  his  wild  laugh  and  betrayed  himself. 
I  pursued  with  a  paddle  and  he  dived,  but  when 
he  came  up  I  was  nearer  than  before.  He  dived 
again,  but  I  miscalculated  the  direction  he 
would  take,  and  we  were  fifty  rods  apart  when 
he  came  to  the  surface  this  time,  for  I  had  helped 
to  widen  the  interval ;  and  again  he  laughed 
long  and  loud,  and  with  more  reason  than  be 
fore.  He  manoeuvred  so  cunningly  that  I  could 
not  get  within  half  a  dozen  rods  of  him.  Each 
time,  when  he  came  to  the  surface,  turning  his 
head  this  way  and  that,  he  coolly  surveyed  the 

312  WALDEN 

water  and  the  land,  and  apparently  chose  his 
course  so  that  he  might  come  up  where  there  was 
the  widest  expanse  of  water  and  at  the  greatest 
distance  from  the  boat.  It  was  surprising  how 
quickly  he  made  up  his  mind  and  put  his  re 
solve  into  execution.  He  led  me  at  once  to  the 
widest  part  of  the  pond,  and  could  not  be  driven 
from  it.  While  he  was  thinking  one  thing  in 
his  brain,  I  was  endeavoring  to  divine  his 
thought  in  mine.  It  was  a  pretty  game,  played 
on  the  smooth  surface  of  the  pond,  a  man  against 
a  loon.  Suddenly  your  adversary's  checker  dis 
appears  beneath  the  board,  and  the  problem  is 
to  place  yours  nearest  to  where  his  will  appear 
again.  Sometimes  he  would  come  up  unex 
pectedly  on  the  opposite  side  of  me,  having 
apparently  passed  directly  under  the  boat.  So 
long-winded  was  he  and  so  unweariable,  that 
when  he  had  swum  farthest  he  would  immedi 
ately  plunge  again,  nevertheless;  and  then  no 
wit  could  divine  where  in  the  deep  pond,  be 
neath  the  smooth  surface,  he  might  be  speed 
ing  his  way  like  a  fish,  for  he  had  time  and  ability 
to  visit  the  bottom  of  the  pond  in  its  deepest 
part.  It  is  said  that  loons  have  been  caught  in 
the  New  York  lakes  eighty  feet  beneath  the  sur 
face,  with  hooks  set  for  trout,  —  though  Walden 
is  deeper  than  that.  How  surprised  must  the 
fishes  be  to  see  this  ungainly  visitor  from  an 
other  sphere  speeding  his  way  amid  their  schools  ! 


Yet  he  appeared  to  know  his  course  as  surely 
under  water  as  on  the  surface,  and  swam  much 
faster  there.  Once  or  twice  I  saw  a  ripple  where 
he  approached  the  surface,  just  put  his  head  out 
to  reconnoitre,  and  instantly  dived  again.  I 
found  that  it  was  as  well  for  me  to  rest  on  my 
oars  and  wait  his  reappearing  as  to  endeavor  to 
calculate  where  he  would  rise;  for  again  and 
again,  when  I  was  straining  my  eyes  over  the 
surface  one  way,  I  would  suddenly  be  startled 
by  his  unearthly  laugh  behind  me.  But  why, 
after  displaying  so  much  cunning,  did  he  in 
variably  betray  himself  the  moment  he  came  up 
by  that  loud  laugh?  Did  not  his  white  breast 
enough  betray  him  ?  He  was  indeed  a  silly  loon, 
I  thought.  I  could  commonly  hear  the  plash  of 
the  water  when  he  came  up,  and  so  also  de 
tected  him.  But  after  an  hour  he  seemed  as 
fresh  as  ever,  dived  as  willingly  and  swam  yet 
farther  than  at  first.  It  was  surprising  to  see 
how  serenely  he  sailed  off  with  unruffled  breast 
when  he  came  to  the  surface,  doing  all  the 
work  with  his  webbed  feet  beneath.  His  usual 
note  was  this  demoniac  laughter,  yet  somewhat 
like  that  of  a  water-fowl;  but  occasionally, 
when  he  had  balked  me  most  successfully  and 
come  up  a  long  way  off,  he  uttered  a  long-drawn 
unearthly  howl,  probably  more  like  that  of  a 
wolf  than  any  bird;  as  when  a  beast  puts  his 
muzzle  to  the  ground  and  deliberately  howls. 

314  WALDEN 

This  was  his  looning,  —  perhaps  the  wildest 
sound  that  is  ever  heard  here,  making  the  woods 
ring  far  and  wide.  I  concluded  that  he  laughed 
in  derision  of  my  efforts,  confident  of  his  own  re 
sources.  Though  the  sky  was  by  this  time  over 
cast,  the  pond  was  so  smooth  that  I  could  see 
where  he  broke  the  surface  when  I  did  not  hear 
him.  His  white  breast,  the  stillness  of  the  air, 
and  the  smoothness  of  the  water  were  all  against 
him.  At  length,  having  come  up  fifty  rods  off, 
he  uttered  one  of  those  prolonged  howls,  as  if 
calling  on  the  god  of  loons  to  aid  him,  and  im 
mediately  there  came  a  wind  from  the  east  and 
rippled  the  surface,  and  filled  the  whole  air 
with  misty  rain,  and  I  was  impressed  as  if  it 
were  the  prayer  of  the  loon  answered,  and 
his  god  was  angry  with  me ;  and  so  I  left  him 
disappearing  far  away  on  the  tumultuous  sur 

For  hours,  in  fall  days,  I  watched  the  ducks 
cunningly  tack  and  veer  and  hold  the  middle  of 
the  pond,  far  from  the  sportsman;  tricks  which 
they  will  have  less  need  to  practice  in  Louisiana 
bayous.  When  compelled  to  rise  they  would 
sometimes  circle  round  and  round  and  over  the 
pond  at  a  considerable  height,  from  which  they 
could  easily  see  to  other  ponds  and  the  river, 
like  black  motes  in  the  sky ;  and  when  I  thought 
they  had  gone  off  thither  long  since,  they  would 
settle  down  by  a  slanting  flight  of  a  quarter 


of  a  mile  on  to  a  distant  part  which  was  left 
free;  but  what  besides  safety  they  got  by  sail 
ing  in  the  middle  of  Walden  I  do  not  know, 
unless  they  love  its  water  for  the  same  reason 
that  I  do. 



IN  October  I  went  a-graping  to  the  river 
meadows,  and  loaded  myself  with  clusters 
more  precious  for  their  beauty  and  fragrance 
than  for  food.  There  too  I  admired,  though  I 
did  not  gather,  the  cranberries,  small  waxen 
gems,  pendants  of  the  meadow  grass,  pearly 
and  red,  which  the  farmer  plucks  with  an  ugly 
rake,  leaving  the  smooth  meadow  in  a  snarl, 
heedlessly  measuring  them  by  the  bushel  and 
the  dollar  only,  and  sells  the  spoils  of  the  meads 
to  Boston  and  New  York;  destined  to  be 
jammed,  to  satisfy  the  tastes  of  lovers  of  Nature 
there.  So  butchers  rake  the  tongues  of  bison 
out  of  the  prairie  grass,  regardless  of  the  torn 
and  drooping  plant.  The  barberry's  brilliant 
fruit  was  likewise  food  for  my  eyes  merely;  but 
I  collected  a  small  store  of  wild  apples  for  cod 
dling,  which  the  proprietors  and  travellers  had 
overlooked.  When  chestnuts  were  ripe  I  laid 
up  half  a  bushel  for  winter.  It  was  very  exciting 
at  that  season  to  roam  the  then  boundless  chest 
nut  woods  of  Lincoln,  —  they  now  sleep  their 
long  sleep  under  the  railroad,  —  with  a  bag  on 


my  shoulder,  and  a  stick  to  open  burrs  with  in 
my  hand,  for  I  did  not  always  wait  for  the  frost, 
amid  the  rustling  of  leaves  and  the  loud  re 
proofs  of  the  red-squirrels  and  the  jays,  whose 
half-consumed  nuts  I  sometimes  stole,  for  the 
burrs  which  they  had  selected  were  sure  to  con 
tain  sound  ones.  Occasionally  I  climbed  and 
shook  the  trees.  They  grew  also  behind  my 
house,  and  one  large  tree  which  almost  over 
shadowed  it  was,  when  in  flower,  a  bouquet 
which  scented  the  whole  neighborhood,  but  the 
squirrels  and  the  jays  got  most  of  its  fruit;  the 
last  coming  in  flocks  early  in  the  morning  and 
picking  the  nuts  out  of  the  burrs  before  they  fell. 
I  relinquished  these  trees  to  them  and  visited 
the  more  distant  woods  composed  wholly  of 
chestnut.  These  nuts,  as  far  as  they  went,  were 
a  good  substitute  for  bread.  Many  other  sub 
stitutes  might,  perhaps,  be  found.  Digging  one 
day  for  fish-worms  I  discovered  the  ground-nut 
(Apios  tuber osa)  on  its  string,  the  potato  of  the 
aborigines,  a  sort  of  fabulous  fruit,  which  I  had 
begun  to  doubt  if  I  had  ever  dug  and  eaten  in 
childhood,  as  I  had  told,  and  had  not  dreamed 
it.  I  had  often  since  seen  its  crimpled  red  vel 
vety  blossom  supported  by  the  stems  of  other 
plants  without  knowing  it  to  be  the  same.  Cul 
tivation  has  well-nigh  exterminated  it.  It  has 
a  sweetish  taste,  much  like  that  of  a  frostbitten 
potato,  and  I  found  it  better  boiled  than  roasted. 

318  WALDEN 

This  tuber  seemed  like  a  faint  promise  of  Nature 
to  rear  her  own  children  and  feed  them  simply 
here  at  some  future  period.  In  these  days  of 
fatted  cattle  and  waving  grain-fields,  this  hum 
ble  root,  which  was  once  the  totem  of  an  Indian 
tribe,  is  quite  forgotten,  or  known  only  by  its 
flowering  vine ;  but  let  wild  Nature  reign  here 
once  more,  and  the  tender  and  luxurious  English 
grains  will  probably  disappear  before  a  myriad 
of  foes,  and  without  the  care  of  man  the  crow 
may  carry  back  even  the  last  seed  of  corn  to  the 
great  cornfield  of  the  Indian's  God  in  the  south 
west,  whence  he  is  said  to  have  brought  it;  but 
the  now  almost  exterminated  ground-nut  will 
perhaps  revive  and  flourish  in  spite  of  frosts  and 
wildness,  prove  itself  indigenous,  and  resume 
its  ancient  importance  and  dignity  as  the  diet 
of  the  hunter  tribe.  Some  Indian  Ceres  or  Mi 
nerva  must  have  been  the  inventor  and  bestower 
of  it;  and  when  the  reign  of  poetry  commences 
here,  its  leaves  and  string  of  nuts  may  be  repre 
sented  on  our  works  of  art. 

Already,  by  the  first  of  September,  I  had  seen 
two  or  three  small  maples  turned  scarlet  across 
the  pond,  beneath  where  the  white  stems  of 
three  aspens  diverged,  at  the  point  of  a  prom 
ontory,  next  the  water.  Ah,  many  a  tale  their 
color  told !  And  gradually  from  week  to  week 
the  character  of  each  tree  came  out,  and  it  ad 
mired  itself  reflected  in  the  smooth  mirror  of 


the  lake.  Each  morning  the  manager  of  this 
gallery  substituted  some  new  picture,  distin 
guished  by  more  brilliant  or  harmonious  color 
ing,  for  the  old  upon  the  walls. 

The  wasps  came  by  thousands  to  my  lodge  in 
October,  as  to  winter  quarters,  and  settled  on 
my  windows  within  and  on  the  walls  overhead, 
sometimes  deterring  visitors  from  entering.  Each 
morning,  when  they  were  numbed  with  cold,  I 
swept  some  of  them  out,  but  I  did  not  trouble 
myself  much  to  get  rid  of  them ;  I  even  felt  com 
plimented  by  their  regarding  my  house  as  a 
desirable  shelter.  They  never  molested  me  seri 
ously,  though  they  bedded  with  me ;  and  they 
gradually  disappeared,  into  what  crevices  I  do 
not  know,  avoiding  winter  and  unspeakable 

Like  the  wasps,  before  I  finally  went  into 
winter  quarters  in  November,  I  used  to  resort 
to  the  northeast  side  of  Walden,  which  the  sun, 
reflected  from  the  pitch-pine  woods  and  the 
stony  shore,  made  the  fireside  of  the  pond ;  it  is 
so  much  pleasanter  and  wholesomer  to  be 
warmed  by  the  sun  while  you  can  be,  than  by 
an  artificial  fire.  I  thus  warmed  myself  by  the 
still  glowing  embers  which  the  summer,  like  a 
departed  hunter,  had  left. 

When  I  came  to  build  my  chimney  I  studied 
masonry.  My  bricks  being  second-hand  ones 

320  1VALDEN 

required  to  be  cleaned  with  a  trowel,  so  that  I 
learned  more  than  usual  of  the  qualities  of 
bricks  and  trowels.  The  mortar  on  them  was 
fifty  years  old,  and  was  said  to  be  still  growing 
harder;  but  this  is  one  of  those  sayings  which 
men  love  to  repeat  whether  they  are  true  or  not. 
Such  sayings  themselves  grow  harder  and  ad 
here  more  firmly  with  age,  and  it  would  take 
many  blows  with  a  trowel  to  clean  an  old  wise 
acre  of  them.  Many  of  the  villages  of  Mesopo 
tamia  are  built  of  second-hand  bricks  of  a  very 
good  quality,  obtained  from  the  ruins  of  Baby 
lon,  and  the  cement  on  them  is  older  and  prob 
ably  harder  still.  However  that  may  be,  I  was 
struck  by  the  peculiar  toughness  of  the  steel 
which  bore  so  many  violent  blows  without  being 
worn  out.  As  my  bricks  had  been  in  a  chimney 
before,  though  I  did  not  read  the  name  of  Neb 
uchadnezzar  on  them,  I  picked  out  as  many 
fireplace  bricks  as  I  could  find,  to  save  work  and 
waste,  and  I  filled  the  spaces  between  the  bricks 
about  the  fireplace  with  stones  from  the  pond 
shore,  and  also  made  my  mortar  with  the  white 
sand  from  the  same  place.  I  lingered  most 
about  the  fireplace,  as  the  most  vital  part  of  the 
house.  Indeed,  I  worked  so  deliberately,  that 
though  I  commenced  at  the  ground  in  the  morn 
ing,  a  course  of  bricks  raised  a  few  inches  above 
the  floor  served  for  my  pillow  at  night ;  yet  I  did 
not  get  a  stiff  neck  for  it  that  I  remember;  my 


stiff  neck  is  of  older  date.  I  took  a  poet  to 
board  for  a  fortnight  about  those  times,  which 
caused  me  to  be  put  to  it  for  room.  He  brought 
his  own  knife,  though  I  had  two,  and  we  used  to 
scour  them  by  thrusting  them  into  the  earth. 
He  shared  with  me  the  labors  of  cooking.  I  was 
pleased  to  see  my  work  rising  so  square  and 
solid  by  degrees,  and  reflected  that,  if  it  pro 
ceeded  slowly,  it  was  calculated  to  endure  a 
long  time.  The  chimney  is  to  some  extent  an 
independent  structure,  standing  on  the  ground 
and  rising  through  the  house  to  the  heavens; 
even  after  the  house  is  burned  it  still  stands 
sometimes,  and  its  importance  and  independ 
ence  are  apparent.  This  was  toward  the  end 
of  summer.  It  was  now  November. 

The  north  wind  had  already  begun  to  cool  the 
pond,  though  it  took  many  weeks  of  steady 
blowing  to  accomplish  it,  it  is  so  deep.  When  I 
began  to  have  a  fire  at  evening,  before  I  plas 
tered  my  house,  the  chimney  carried  smoke 
particularly  well,  because  of  the  numerous  chinks 
between  the  boards.  Yet  I  passed  some  cheerful 
evenings  in  that  cool  and  airy  apartment,  sur 
rounded  by  the  rough  brown  boards  full  of 
knots,  and  rafters  with  the  bark  on  high  over 
head.  My  house  never  pleased  my  eye  so  much 
after  it  was  plastered,  though  I  was  obliged  to 
confess  that  it  was  more  comfortable.  Should 



not  every  apartment  in  which  man  dwells  be 
lofty  enough  to  create  some  obscurity  over 
head,  where  flickering  shadows  may  play  at 
evening  about  the  rafters?  These  forms  are 
more  agreeable  to  the  fancy  and  imagination 
than  fresco  paintings  or  other  the  most  expen 
sive  furniture.  I  now  first  began  to  inhabit  my 
house,  I  may  say,  when  I  began  to  use  it  for 
warmth  as  well  as  shelter.  I  had  got  a  couple  of 
old  fire-dogs  to  keep  the  wood  from  the  hearth, 
and  it  did  me  good  to  see  the  soot  form  on  the 
back  of  the  chimney  which  I  had  built,  and  I 
poked  the  fire  with  more  right  and  more  satis 
faction  than  usual.  My  dwelling  was  small, 
and  I  could  hardly  entertain  an  echo  in  it;  but 
it  seemed  larger  for  being  a  single  apartment 
and  remote  from  neighbors.  All  the  attractions 
of  a  house  were  concentrated  in  one  room;  it 
was  kitchen,  chamber,  parlor,  and  keeping- 
room;  and  whatever  satisfaction  parent  or 
child,  master  or  servant,  derive  from  living  in  a 
house,  I  enjoyed  it  all.  Cato  says,  the  master 
of  a  family  (patremfamilias)  must  have  in  his 
rustic  villa  "cellam  oleariam,  vinariam,  dolia 
multa,  uti  lubeat  caritatem  expectare,  et  rei, 
et  virtuti,  et  glorise  erit,"  that  is,  "an  oil  and  wine 
cellar,  many  casks,  so  that  it  may  be  pleasant 
to  expect  hard  times;  it  will  be  for  his  advan 
tage,  and  virtue,  and  glory."  I  had  in  my  cellar 
a  firkin  of  potatoes,  about  two  quarts  of  peas 


with  the  weevil  in  them,  and  on  my  shelf  a  little 
rice,  a  jug  of  molasses,  and  of  rye  and  Indian 
meal  a  peck  each. 

I  sometimes  dream  of  a  larger  and  more  popu 
lous  house,  standing  in  a  golden  age,  of  enduring 
materials,  and  without  gingerbread- work,  which 
shall  still  consist  of  only  one  room,  a  vast,  rude, 
substantial,  primitive  hall,  without  ceiling  or 
plastering,  with  bare  rafters  and  purlins  sup 
porting  a  sort  of  lower  heaven  over  one's  head, 
-  useful  to  keep  off  rain  and  snow ;  where  the 
king  and  queen  posts  stand  out  to  receive  your 
homage,  when  you  have  done  reverence  to  the 
prostrate  Saturn  of  an  older  dynasty  on  stepping 
over  the  sill ;  a  cavernous  house,  wherein  you 
must  reach  up  a  torch  upon  a  pole  to  see  the 
roof;  where  some  may  live  in  the  fireplace, 
some  in  the  recess  of  a  window,  and  some  on 
settles,  some  at  one  end  of  the  hall,  some  at 
another,  and  some  aloft  on  rafters  with  the 
spiders,  if  they  choose ;  a  house  which  you  have 
got  into  when  you  have  opened  the  outside 
door,  and  the  ceremony  is  over;  where  the 
weary  traveller  may  wash,  and  eat,  and  con 
verse,  and  sleep,  without  further  journey;  such 
a  shelter  as  you  would  be  glad  to  reach  in  a 
tempestuous  night,  containing  all  the  essentials 
of  a  house,  and  nothing  for  house-keeping,  where 
you  can  see  all  the  treasures  of  the  house  at 
one  view,  and  everything  hangs  upon  its  peg 

324  WALDEN 

that  a  man  should  use ;  at  once  kitchen,  pantry, 
parlor,  chamber,  store-house,  and  garret ;  where 
you  can  see  so  necessary  a  thing  as  a  barrel  or  a 
ladder,  so  convenient  a  thing  as  a  cupboard, 
and  hear  the  pot  boil,  and  pay  your  respects  to 
the  fire  that  cooks  your  dinner  and  the  oven 
that  bakes  your  bread,  and  the  necessary  furni 
ture  and  utensils  are  the  chief  ornaments ;  where 
the  washing  is  not  put  out,  nor  the  fire,  nor  the 
mistress,  and  perhaps  you  are  sometimes  re 
quested  to  move  from  off  the  trap-door,  when 
the  cook  would  descend  into  the  cellar,  and  so 
learn  whether  the  ground  is  solid  or  hollow 
beneath  you  without  stamping.  A  house  whose 
inside  is  as  open  and  manifest  as  a  bird's  nest, 
and  you  cannot  go  in  at  the  front  door  and  out 
at  the  back  without  seeing  some  of  its  inhabit 
ants  ;  where  to  be  a  guest  is  to  be  presented  with 
the  freedom  of  the  house,  and  not  to  be  care 
fully  excluded  from  seven  eighths  of  it,  shut  up 
in  a  particular  cell,  and  told  to  make  yourself 
at  home  there,  —  in  solitary  confinement.  Now 
adays  the  host  does  not  admit  you  to  his  hearth, 
but  has  got  the  mason  to  build  one  for  yourself 
somewhere  in  his  alley,  and  hospitality  is  the 
art  of  keeping  you  at  the  greatest  distance.  There 
is  as  much  secrecy  about  the  cooking  as  if  he  had 
a  design  to  poison  you.  I  am  aware  that  I  have 
been  on  many  a  man's  premises,  and  might 
have  been  legally  ordered  off,  but  I  am  not  aware 


that  I  have  been  in  many  men's  houses.  I 
might  visit  in  my  old  clothes  a  king  and  queen 
who  lived  simply  in  such  a  house  as  I  have 
described,  if  I  were  going  their  way ;  but  back 
ing  out  of  a  modern  palace  will  be  all  that  I 
shall  desire  to  learn,  if  ever  I  am  caught  in  one. 

It  would  seem  as  if  the  very  language  of  our 
parlors  would  lose  all  its  nerve  and  degenerate 
into  parlaver  wholly,  our  lives  pass  at  such 
remoteness  from  its  symbols,  and  its  metaphors 
and  tropes  are  necessarily  so  far  fetched,  through 
slides  and  dumb-waiters,  as  it  were;  in  other 
words,  the  parlor  is  so  far  from  the  kitchen  and 
workshop.  The  dinner  even  is  only  the  parable 
of  a  dinner,  commonly.  As  if  only  the  savage 
dwelt  near  enough  to  Nature  and  Truth  to 
borrow  a  trope  from  them.  How  can  the 
scholar,  who  dwells  away  in  the  North  West 
Territory  or  the  Isle  of  Man,  tell  what  is  parlia 
mentary  in  the  kitchen? 

However,  only  one  or  two  of  my  guests  were 
ever  bold  enough  to  stay  and  eat  a  hasty-pudding 
with  me;  but  when  they  saw  that  crisis  ap 
proaching  they  beat  a  hasty  retreat  rather,  as 
if  it  would  shake  the  house  to  its  foundations. 
Nevertheless,  it  stood  through  a  great  many 

I  did  not  plaster  till  it  was  freezing  weather. 
I  brought  over  some  whiter  and  cleaner  sand 
for  this  purpose  from  the  opposite  shore  of  the 

326  WALDEN 

pond  in  a  boat,  a  sort  of  conveyance  which 
would  have  tempted  me  to  go  much  farther  if 
necessary.  My  house  had  in  the  meanwhile 
been  shingled  down  to  the  ground  on  every 
side.  In  lathing  I  was  pleased  to  be  able  to 
send  home  each  nail  with  a  single  blow  of  the 
hammer,  and  it  was  my  ambition  to  transfer  the 
plaster  from  the  board  to  the  wall  neatly  and 
rapidly.  I  remembered  the  story  of  a  conceited 
fellow,  who,  in  fine  clothes,  was  wont  to  lounge 
about  the  village  once,  giving  advice  to  work 
men.  Venturing  one  day  to  substitute  deeds  for 
words,  he  turned  up  his  cuffs,  seized  a  plaster 
er's  board,  and  having  loaded  his  trowel  with 
out  mishap,  with  a  complacent  look  toward  the 
lathing  overhead,  made  a  bold  gesture  thither 
ward;  and  straightway,  to  his  complete  dis 
comfiture,  received  the  whole  contents  in  his 
ruffled  bosom.  I  admired  anew  the  economy 
and  convenience  of  plastering,  which  so  effectu 
ally  shuts  out  the  cold  and  takes  a  handsome 
finish,  and  I  learned  the  various  casualties  to 
which  the  plasterer  is  liable.  I  was  surprised 
to  see  how  thirsty  the  bricks  were,  which  drank 
up  all  the  moisture  in  my  plaster  before  I  had 
smoothed  it,  and  how  many  pailfuls  of  water 
it  takes  to  christen  a  new  hearth.  I  had  the 
previous  winter  made  a  small  quantity  of  lime 
by  burning  the  shells  of  the  Unio  fluviatilis, 
which  our  river  affords,  for  the  sake  of  the  ex- 


periment;  so  that  I  knew  where  my  materials 
came  from.  I  might  have  got  good  limestone 
within  a  mile  or  two  and  burned  it  myself,  if  I 
had  cared  to  do  so. 

The  pond  had  in  the  meanwhile  skimmed 
over  in  the  shadiest  and  shallowest  coves,  some 
days  or  even  weeks  before  the  general  freezing. 
The  first  ice  is  especially  interesting  and  per 
fect,  being  hard,  dark,  and  transparent,  and 
affords  the  best  opportunity  that  ever  offers  for 
examining  the  bottom  where  it  is  shallow;  for 
you  can  lie  at  your  length  on  ice  only  an  inch 
thick,  like  a  skater  insect  on  the  surface  of  the 
water,  and  study  the  bottom  at  your  leisure, 
only  two  or  three  inches  distant,  like  a  picture 
behind  a  glass,  and  the  water  is  necessarily 
always  smooth  then.  There  are  many  furrows 
in  the  sand  where  some  creature  has  travelled 
about  and  doubled  on  its  tracks ;  and,  for  wrecks, 
it  is  strewn  with  the  cases  of  caddis  worms  made 
of  minute  grains  of  white  quartz.  Perhaps  these 
have  creased  it,  for  you  find  some  of  their  cases 
in  the  furrows,  though  they  are  deep  and  broad 
for  them  to  make.  But  the  ice  itself  is  the  object 
of  most  interest,  though  you  must  improve  the 
earliest  opportunity  to  study  it.  If  you  examine 
it  closely  the  morning  after  it  freezes,  you  find 
that  the  greater  part  of  the  bubbles,  which  at 
first  appeared  to  be  within  it,  are  against  its 
under  surface,  and  that  more  are  continually 

328  WALDEN 

rising  from  the  bottom;  while  the  ice  is  as  yet 
comparatively  solid  and  dark,  that  is,  you  see 
the  water  through  it.  These  bubbles  are  from 
an  eightieth  to  an  eighth  of  an  inch  in  diameter, 
very  clear  and  beautiful,  and  you  see  your  face 
reflected  in  them  through  the  ice.  There  may 
be  thirty  or  forty  of  them  to  a  square  inch. 
There  are  also  already  within  the  ice  narrow 
oblong  perpendicular  bubbles  about  half  an 
inch  long,  sharp  cones  with  the  apex  upward; 
or  oftener,  if  the  ice  is  quite  fresh,  minute  spheri 
cal  bubbles,  one  directly  above  another,  like  a 
string  of  beads.  But  these  within  the  ice  are 
not  so  numerous  nor  obvious  as  those  beneath. 
I  sometimes  used  to  cast  on  stones  to  try  the 
strength  of  the  ice,  and  those  which  broke 
through  carried  in  air  with  them,  which  formed 
very  large  and  conspicuous  white  bubbles  be 
neath.  One  day  when  I  came  to  the  same  place 
forty-eight  hours  afterward,  I  found  that  those 
large  bubbles  were  still  perfect,  though  an  inch 
more  of  ice  had  formed,  as  I  could  see  distinctly 
by  the  seam  in  the  edge  of  a  cake.  But  as  the 
last  two  days  had  been  very  warm,  like  an  Indian 
summer,  the  ice  was  not  now  transparent,  show 
ing  the  dark  green  color  of  the  water,  and  the 
bottom,  but  opaque  and  whitish  or  gray,  and 
though  twice  as  thick  was  hardly  stronger  than 
before,  for  the  air  bubbles  had  greatly  expanded 
under  this  heat  and  run  together,  and  lost  their 


regularity;  they  were  no  longer  one  directly 
over  another,  but  often  like  silvery  coins  poured 
from  a  bag,  one  overlapping  another,  or  in  thin 
flakes,  as  if  occupying  slight  cleavages.  The 
beauty  of  the  ice  was  gone,  and  it  was  too  late 
to  study  the  bottom.  Being  curious  to  know 
what  position  my  great  bubbles  occupied  with 
regard  to  the  new  ice,  I  broke  out  a  cake  con 
taining  a  middling-sized  one,  and  turned  it  bot 
tom  upward.  The  new  ice  had  formed  around 
and  under  the  bubble,  so  that  it  was  included 
between  the  two  ices.  It  was  wholly  in  the 
lower  ice,  but  close  against  the  upper,  and  was 
flattish,  or  perhaps  slightly  lenticular,  with  a 
rounded  edge,  a  quarter  of  an  inch  deep  by  four 
inches  in  diameter;  and  I  was  surprised  to  find 
that  directly  under  the  bubble  the  ice  was 
melted  with  great  regularity  in  the  form  of  a 
saucer  reversed,  to  the  height  of  five-eighths  of 
an  inch  in  the  middle,  leaving  a  thin  partition 
there  between  the  water  and  the  bubble,  hardly 
an  eighth  of  an  inch  thick;  and  in  many  places 
the  small  bubbles  in  this  partition  had  burst 
out  downward,  and  probably  there  was  no  ice 
at  all  under  the  largest  bubbles,  which  were  a 
foot  in  diameter.  I  inferred  that  the  infinite 
number  of  minute  bubbles  which  I  had  first 
seen  against  the  under  surface  of  the  ice  were 
now  frozen  in  likewise,  and  that  each,  in  its 
degree,  had  operated  like  a  burning-glass  on 

330  WALDEN 

the  ice  beneath  to  melt  and  rot  it.  These  are 
the  little  air  guns  which  contribute  to  make  the 
ice  crack  and  whoop. 

At  length  the  winter  set  in  in  good  earnest, 
just  as  I  had  finished  plastering,  and  the  wind 
began  to  howl  around  the  house  as  if  it  had  not 
had  permission  to  do  so  till  then.  Night  after 
night  the  geese  came  lumbering  in  in  the  dark 
with  a  clangor  and  a  whistling  of  wings,  even 
after  the  ground  was  covered  with  snow,  some 
to  alight  in  Walden,  and  some  flying  low  over 
the  woods  toward  Fair-Haven,  bound  for  Mex 
ico.  Several  times,  when  returning  from  the 
village  at  ten  or  eleven  o'clock  at  night,  I  heard 
the  tread  of  a  flock  of  geese,  or  else  ducks,  on 
the  dry  leaves  in  the  woods  by  a  pond-hole 
behind  my  dwelling,  where  they  had  come  up 
to  feed,  and  the  faint  honk  or  quack  of  their 
leader  as  they  hurried  off.  In  1845  Walden 
froze  entirely  over  for  the  first  time  on  the  night 
of  the  22d  of  December,  Flint's  and  other 
shallower  ponds  and  the  river  having  been  frozen 
ten  days  or  more ;  in  '46,  the  16th ;  in  '49,  about 
the  31st;  and  in  '50,  about  the  27th  of  Decem 
ber;  in  '52,  the  5th  of  January;  in  '53,  the 
31st  of  December.  The  snow  had  already 
covered  the  ground  since  the  25th  of  November, 
and  surrounded  me  suddenly  with  the  scenery 
of  winter.  I  withdrew  yet  farther  into  my  shell, 


and  endeavored  to  keep  a  bright  fire  both  within 
my  house  and  within  my  breast.  My  employ 
ment  out  of  doors  now  was  to  collect  the  dead 
wood  in  the  forest,  bringing  it  in  my  hands  or  on 
my  shoulders,  or  sometimes  trailing  a  dead  pine 
tree  under  each  arm  to  my  shed.  An  old  forest 
fence  which  had  seen  its  best  days  was  a  great 
haul  for  me.  I  sacrificed  it  to  Vulcan,  for  it  was 
past  serving  the  god  Terminus.  How  much 
more  interesting  an  event  is  that  man's  supper 
who  has  just  been  forth  in  the  snow  to  hunt, 
nay,  you  may  say,  steal,  the  fuel  to  cook  it  with  ! 
His  bread  and  meat  are  sweet.  There  are 
enough  fagots  and  waste  wood  of  all  kinds  in 
the  forests  of  most  of  our  towns  to  support  many 
fires,  but  which  at  present  warm  none,  and, 
some  think,  hinder  the  growth  of  the  young 
wood.  There  was  also  the  drift-wood  of  the 
pond.  In  the  course  of  the  summer  I  had  dis 
covered  a  raft  of  pitch-pine  logs  with  the  bark 
on,  pinned  together  by  the  Irish  when  the  rail 
road  was  built.  This  I  hauled  up  partly  on  the 
shore.  After  soaking  two  years  and  then  lying 
high  six  months  it  was  perfectly  sound,  though 
waterlogged  past  drying.  I  amused  myself  one 
winter  day  with  sliding  this  piece-meal  across 
the  pond,  nearly  half  a  mile,  skating  behind 
with  one  end  of  a  log  fifteen  feet  long  on  my 
shoulder,  and  the  other  on  the  ice;  or  I  tied 
several  logs  together  with  a  birch  withe,  and 

332  WALDEN 

then,  with  a  longer  birch  or  alder  which  had  a 
hook  at  the  end,  dragged  them  across.  Though 
completely  waterlogged  and  almost  as  heavy 
as  lead,  they  not  only  burned  long,  but  made 
a  very  hot  fire ;  nay,  I  thought  that  they  burned 
better  for  the  soaking,  as  if  the  pitch,  being 
confined  by  the  water,  burned  longer  as  in  a 

Gilpin,  in  his  account  of  the  forest  borderers 
of  England,  says  that  "the  encroachments  of 
trespassers,  and  the  houses  and  fences  thus  raised 
on  the  borders  of  the  forest,"  were  "considered 
as  great  nuisances  by  the  old  forest  law,  and 
were  severely  punished  under  the  name  of  pur- 
prestures,  as  tending  ad  terrorem  ferarum  —  ad 
nocumentum  forestce,  &c.,"  to  the  frightening  of 
the  game  and  the  detriment  of  the  forest.  But 
I  was  interested  in  the  preservation  of  the  veni 
son  and  the  vert  more  than  the  hunters  or  wood- 
choppers,  and  as  much  as  though  I  had  been 
the  Lord  Warden  himself;  and  if  any  part  was 
burned,  though  I  burned  it  myself  by  accident, 
I  grieved  with  a  grief  that  lasted  longer  and 
was  more  inconsolable  than  that  of  the  proprie 
tors;  nay,  I  grieved  when  it  was  cut  down  by 
the  proprietors  themselves.  I  would  that  our 
farmers  when  they  cut  down  a  forest  felt  some 
of  that  awe  which  the  old  Romans  did  when 
they  came  to  thin,  or  let  in  the  light  to,  a  conse 
crated  grove  (lucum  conlucare),  that  is,  would 


believe  that  it  is  sacred  to  some  god.  The 
Roman  made  an  expiatory  offering,  and  prayed, 
Whatever  god  or  goddess  thou  art  to  whom  this 
grove  is  sacred,  be  propitious  to  me,  my  family, 
and  children,  &c. 

It  is  remarkable  what  a  value  is  still  put  upon 
wood  even  in  this  age  and  in  this  new  country, 
a  value  more  permanent  and  universal  than  that 
of  gold.  After  all  our  discoveries  and  inventions 
no  man  will  go  by  a  pile  of  wood.  It  is  as  pre 
cious  to  us  as  it  was  to  our  Saxon  and  Norman 
ancestors.  If  they  made  their  bows  of  it,  we 
make  our  gun-stocks  of  it.  Michaux,  more  than 
thirty  years  ago,  says  that  the  price  of  wood  for 
fuel  in  New  York  and  Philadelphia  "nearly 
equals,  and  sometimes  exceeds,  that  of  the  best 
wood  in  Paris,  though  this  immense  capital  an 
nually  requires  more  than  three  hundred  thou 
sand  cords,  and  is  surrounded  to  the  distance 
of  three  hundred  miles  by  cultivated  plains." 
In  this  town  the  price  of  wood  rises  almost 
steadily,  and  the  only  question  is,  how  much 
higher  it  is  to  be  this  year  than  it  was  the  last. 
Mechanics  and  tradesmen  who  come  in  person 
to  the  forest  on  no  other  errand,  are  sure  to 
attend  the  wood  auction,  and  even  pay  a  high 
price  for  the  privilege  of  gleaning  after  the  wood- 
chopper.  It  is  now  many  years  that  men  have 
resorted  to  the  forest  for  fuel  and  the  materials 
of  the  arts;  the  New  Englander  and  the  New 

334  WALDEN 

Hollander,  the  Parisian  and  the  Celt,  the  farmer 
and  Robinhood,  Goody  Blake  and  Harry  Gill, 
in  most  parts  of  the  world  the  prince  and  the 
peasant,  the  scholar  and  the  savage,  equally 
require  still  a  few  sticks  from  the  forest  to  warm 
them  and  cook  their  food.  Neither  could  I  do 
without  them. 

Every  man  looks  at  his  wood-pile  with  a  kind 
of  affection.  I  loved  to  have  mine  before  my 
window,  and  the  more  chips  the  better  to  remind 
me  of  my  pleasing  work.  I  had  an  old  axe  which 
nobody  claimed,  with  which  by  spells  in  winter 
days,  on  the  sunny  side  of  the  house,  I  played 
about  the  stumps  which  I  had  got  out  of  my 
beanfield.  As  my  driver  prophesied  when  I  was 
ploughing,  they  warmed  me  twice,  once  while  I 
was  splitting  them,  and  again  when  they  were 
on  the  fire,  so  that  no  fuel  could  give  out  more 
heat.  As  for  the  axe,  I  was  advised  to  get  the 
village  blacksmith  to  "jump"  it;  but  I  jumped 
him,  and,  putting  a  hickory  helve  from  the 
woods  into  it,  made  it  do.  If  it  was  dull,  it  was 
at  least  hung  true. 

A  few  pieces  of  fat  pine  were  a  great  treasure. 
It  is  interesting  to  remember  how  much  of  this 
food  for  fire  is  still  concealed  in  the  bowels  of 
the  earth.  In  previous  years  I  had  often  gone 
"prospecting"  over  some  bare  hill  side,  where 
a  pitch-pine  wood  had  formerly  stood,  and  got 
out  the  fat  pine  roots.  They  are  almost  hide- 


structible.  Stumps  thirty  or  forty  years  old,  at 
least,  will  still  be  sound  at  the  core,  though  the 
sapwood  has  all  become  vegetable  mould,  as 
appears  by  the  scales  of  the  thick  bark  forming 
a  ring  level  with  the  earth  four  or  five  inches  dis 
tant  from  the  heart.  With  axe  and  shovel  you 
explore  this  mine,  and  follow  the  marrowy 
store,  yellow  as  beef  tallow,  or  as  if  you  had 
struck  on  a  vein  of  gold,  deep  into  the  earth. 
But  commonly  I  kindled  my  fire  with  the  dry 
leaves  of  the  forest,  which  I  had  stored  up  in 
my  shed  before  the  snow  came.  Green  hickory 
finely  split  makes  the  wood-chopper's  kind 
lings,  when  he  has  a  camp  in  the  woods.  Once 
in  a  while  I  got  a  little  of  this.  When  the  vil 
lagers  were  lighting  their  fires  beyond  the  hori 
zon,  I  too  gave  notice  to  the  various  wild  inhabi 
tants  of  Walden  vale,  by  a  smoky  streamer  from 
my  chimney,  that  I  was  awake.  — 

Light-winged  Smoke,  Icarian  bird, 
Melting  thy  pinions  in  thy  upward  flight, 
Lark  without  song,  and  messenger  of  dawn, 
Circling  above  the  hamlets  as  thy  nest; 
Or  else,  departing  dream,  and  shadowy  form 
Of  midnight  vision,  gathering  up  thy  skirts; 
By  night  star-veiling,  and  by  day 
Darkening  the  light  and  blotting  out  the  sun; 
Go  thou  my  incense  upward  from  this  hearth, 
And  ask  the  gods  to  pardon  this  clear  flame. 

Hard  green  wood  just  cut,  though  I  used  but 
little  of  that,  answered  my  purpose  better  than 

336  WALDEN 

any  other.  I  sometimes  left  a  good  fire  when  I 
went  to  take  a  walk  in  a  winter  afternoon;  and 
when  I  returned,  three  or  four  hours  afterward, 
it  would  be  still  alive  and  glowing.  My  house 
was  not  empty  though  I  was  gone.  It  was  as  if 
I  had  left  a  cheerful  housekeeper  behind.  It 
was  I  and  Fire  that  lived  there;  and  commonly 
my  housekeeper  proved  trustworthy.  One  day, 
however,  as  I  was  splitting  wood,  I  thought  that 
I  would  just  look  in  at  the  window  and  see  if  the 
house  was  not  on  fire ;  it  was  the  only  time  I  re 
member  to  have  been  particularly  anxious  on 
this  score ;  so  I  looked  and  saw  that  a  spark  had 
caught  my  bed,  and  I  went  in  and  extinguished 
it  when  it  had  burned  a  place  as  big  as  my  hand. 
But  my  house  occupied  so  sunny  and  sheltered 
a  position,  and  its  roof  was  so  low,  that  I  could 
afford  to  let  the  fire  go  out  in  the  middle  of  al 
most  any  winter  day. 

The  moles  nested  in  my  cellar,  nibbling  every 
third  potato,  and  making  a  snug  bed  even  there 
of  some  hair  left  after  plastering  and  of  brown 
paper;  for  even  the  wildest  animals  love  com 
fort  and  warmth  as  well  as  man,  and  they  sur 
vive  the  winter  only  because  they  are  so  careful 
to  secure  them.  Some  of  my  friends  spoke  as 
if  I  was  coming  to  the  woods  on  purpose  to 
freeze  myself.  The  animal  merely  makes  a  bed, 
which  he  warms  with  his  body  in  a  sheltered 
place;  but  man,  having  discovered  fire,  boxes 


up  some  air  in  a  spacious  apartment,  and  warms 
that,  instead  of  robbing  himself,  makes  that  his 
bed,  in  which  he  can  move  about  divested  of 
more  cumbrous  clothing,  maintain  a  kind  of 
summer  in  the  midst  of  winter,  and  by  means  of 
windows  even  admit  the  light,  and  with  a  lamp 
lengthen  out  the  day.  Thus  he  goes  a  step  or 
two  beyond  instinct,  and  saves  a  little  time  for 
the  fine  arts.  Though,  when  I  had  been  ex 
posed  to  the  rudest  blasts  a  long  time,  my  whole 
body  began  to  grow  torpid,  when  I  reached  the 
genial  atmosphere  of  my  house  I  soon  recovered 
my  faculties  and  prolonged  my  life.  But  the 
most  luxuriously  housed  has  little  to  boast  of  in 
this  respect,  nor  need  we  trouble  ourselves  to 
speculate  how  the  human  race  may  be  at  last 
destroyed.  It  would  be  easy  to  cut  their  threads 
any  time  with  a  little  sharper  blast  from  the 
north.  We  go  on  dating  from  Cold  Fridays  and 
Great  Snows;  but  a  little  colder  Friday,  or 
greater  snow,  would  put  a  period  to  man's  ex 
istence  on  the  globe. 

The  next  winter  I  used  a  small  cooking-stove 
for  economy,  since  I  did  not  own  the  forest ;  but 
it  did  not  keep  fire  so  well  as  the  open  fire-place. 
Cooking  was  then,  for  the  most  part,  no  longer 
a  poetic,  but  merely  a  chemic  process.  It  will 
soon  be  forgotten,  in  these  days  of  stoves,  that 
we  used  to  roast  potatoes  in  the  ashes,  after  the 
Indian  fashion.  The  stove  not  only  took  up 

338  WALDEN 

room  and  scented  the  house,  but  it  concealed 
the  fire,  and  I  felt  as  if  I  had  lost  a  companion. 
You  can  always  see  a  face  in  the  fire.  The  la 
borer,  looking  into  it  at  evening,  purifies  his 
thoughts  of  the  dross  and  earthiness  which  they 
have  accumulated  during  the  day.  But  I  could 
no  longer  sit  and  look  into  the  fire,  and  the  perti 
nent  words  of  a  poet  recurred  to  me  with  new 
force.  — : 

"Never,  bright  flame,  may  be  denied  to  me 
Thy  dear,  life  imaging,  close  sympathy. 
What  but  my  hopes  shot  upward  e'er  so  bright  ? 
What  but  my  fortunes  sunk  so  low  in  night  ? 

"Why  art  thou  banished  from  our  hearth  and  hall, 
Thou  who  art  welcomed  and  beloved  by  all  ? 
Was  thy  existence  then  too  fanciful 
For  our  life's  common  light,  who  are  so  dull  ? 
Did  thy  bright  gleam  mysterious  converse  hold 
With  our  congenial  souls  ?  secrets  too  bold  ? 
Well,  we  are  safe  and  strong,  for  now  we  sit 
Beside  a  hearth  where  no  dim  shadows  flit, 
Where  nothing  cheers  nor  saddens,  but  a  fire 
Warms  feet  and  hands  —  nor  does  to  more  aspire ; 
By  whose  compact  utilitarian  heap 
The  present  may  sit  down  and  go  to  sleep, 
Nor  fear  the  ghosts  who  from  the  dim  past  walked, 
And  with  us  by  the  unequal  light  of  the  old  wood  fire  talked." 



I   WEATHERED  some  merry  snow-storms, 
and  spent  some  cheerful  winter  evenings  by 
my  fire-side,  while  the  snow  whirled  wildly 
without,  and  even  the  hooting  of  the  owl  was 
hushed.    For  many  weeks  I  met  no  one  in  my 
walks  but  those  who  came  occasionally  to  cut 
wood  and  sled  it  to  the  village.     The  elements, 
however,  abetted  me  in  making  a  path  through 
the  deepest  snow  in  the  woods,  for  when  I  had 
once  gone  through  the  wind  blew  the  oak  leaves 
into  my  tracks,  where  they  lodged,  and  by  ab 
sorbing  the  rays  of  the  sun  melted  the  snow, 
and  so  not  only  made  a  dry  bed  for  my  feet,  but 
in  the  night  their  dark  line  was  my  guide.    For 
human  society  I  was  obliged  to  conjure  up  the 
former  occupants  of  these  woods.     Within  the 
memory  of  many  of  my  townsmen  the  road  near 
which    my    house    stands    resounded    with    the 
laugh  and  gossip  of  inhabitants,  and  the  woods 
which  border  it  were  notched  and  dotted  here 
and  there  with  their  little  gardens  and  dwellings, 
though  it  was  then  much  more  shut  in  by  the 
forest  than  now.     In  some  places,  within  my 

340  WALDEN 

own  remembrance,  the  pines  would  scrape 
both  sides  of  a  chaise  at  once,  and  women  and 
children  who  were  compelled  to  go  this  way  to 
Lincoln  alone  and  on  foot  did  it  with  fear,  and 
often  ran  a  good  part  of  the  distance.  Though 
mainly  but  a  humble  route  to  neighboring  vil 
lages,  or  for  the  woodman's  team,  it  once 
amused  the  traveller  more  than  now  by  its  vari 
ety,  and  lingered  longer  in  his  memory.  Where 
now  firm  open  fields  stretch  from  the  village  to 
the  woods,  it  then  ran  through  a  maple  swamp 
on  a  foundation  of  logs,  the  remnants  of  which, 
doubtless,  still  underlie  the  present  dusty  high 
way,  from  the  Stratten,  now  the  Alms  House, 
Farm,  to  Brister's  Hill. 

East  of  my  beanfield,  across  the  road,  lived 
Cato  Ingraham,  slave  of  Duncan  Ingraham, 
Esquire,  gentleman  of  Concord  village;  who 
built  his  slave  a  house,  and  gave  him  permission 
to  live  in  Walden  Woods ;  —  Cato,  not  Uticen- 
sis,  but  Concordiensis.  Some  say  that  he  was  a 
Guinea  Negro.  There  are  a  few  who  remember 
his  little  patch  among  the  walnuts,  which  he  let 
grow  up  till  he  should  be  old  and  need  them; 
but  a  younger  and  whiter  speculator  got  them 
at  last.  He  too,  however,  occupies  an  equally 
narrow  house  at  present.  Cato's  half-obliter 
ated  cellar  hole  still  remains,  though  known  to 
few,  being  concealed  from  the  traveller  by  a 
fringe  of  pines.  It  is  now  filled  with  the  smooth 


sumach  (Rhus  glabra),  and  one  of  the  earliest 
species  of  goldenrod  (Solidago  stricta)  grows 
there  luxuriantly. 

Here,  by  the  very  corner  of  my  field,  still 
nearer  to  town,  Zilpha,  a  colored  woman,  had 
her  little  house,  where  she  spun  linen  for  the 
townsfolk,  making  the  Walden  Woods  ring  with 
her  shrill  singing,  for  she  had  a  loud  and  nota 
ble  voice.  At  length,  in  the  war  of  1812,  her 
dwelling  was  set  on  fire  by  English  soldiers, 
prisoners  on  parole,  when  she  was  away,  and  her 
cat  and  dog  and  hens  were  all  burned  up  to 
gether.  She  led  a  hard  life,  and  somewhat  in 
humane.  One  old  frequenter  of  these  woods 
remembers  that  as  he  passed  her  house  one  noon 
he  heard  her  muttering  to  herself  over  her  gur 
gling  pot,  —  "Ye  are  all  bones,  bones  !"  I  have 
seen  bricks  amid  the  oak  copse  there. 

Down  the  road,  on  the  right  hand,  on  Bris- 
ter's  Hill,  lived  Brister  Freeman,  "a  handy 
Negro,"  slave  of  Squire  Cummings  once,  - 
there  where  grow  still  the  apple  trees  which 
Brister  planted  and  tended ;  large  old  trees  now, 
but  their  fruit  still  wild  and  ciderish  to  my  taste. 
Not  long  since  I  read  his  epitaph  in  the  old 
Lincoln  burying-ground,  a  little  on  one  side, 
near  the  unmarked  graves  of  some  British  gren 
adiers  who  fell  in  the  retreat  from  Concord,  — 
where  he  is  styled  "Sippio  Brister,"  -  Scipio 
Africanus  he  had  some  title  to  be  called,  —  "a 

342  WALDEN 

man  of  color,"  as  if  he  were  discolored.  It  also 
told  me,  with  staring  emphasis,  when  he  died; 
which  was  but  an  indirect  way  of  informing  me 
that  he  ever  lived.  With  him  dwelt  Fenda, 
his  hospitable  wife,  who  told  fortunes,  yet 
pleasantly,  —  large,  round,  and  black,  blacker 
than  any  of  the  children  of  night,  such  a 
dusky  orb  as  never  rose  on  Concord  before  or 

Farther  down  the  hill,  on  the  left,  on  the  old 
road  in  the  woods,  are  marks  of  some  home 
stead  of  the  Stratten  family;  whose  orchard 
once  covered  all  the  slope  of  Brister's  Hill, 
but  was  long  since  killed  out  by  pitch-pines, 
excepting  a  few  stumps,  whose  old  roots  furnish 
still  the  wild  stocks  of  many  a  thrifty  village 

Nearer  yet  to  town,  you  come  to  Breed's  loca 
tion,  on  the  other  side  of  the  way,  just  on  the 
edge  of  the  wood ;  ground  famous  for  the  pranks 
of  a  demon  not  distinctly  named  in  old  mythol 
ogy,  who  has  acted  a  prominent  and  astounding 
part  in  our  New  England  life,  and  deserves,  as 
much  as  any  mythological  character,  to  have 
his  biography  written  one  day;  who  first  comes 
in  the  guise  of  a  friend  or  hired  man,  and  then 
robs  and  murders  the  whole  family,  —  New 
England  Rum.  But  history  must  not  yet  tell 
the  tragedies  enacted  here ;  let  time  intervene  in 
some  measure  to  assuage  and  lend  an  azure 



tint  to  them.  Here  the  most  indistinct  and  du 
bious  tradition  says  that  once  a  tavern  stood; 
the  well  the  same,  which  tempered  the  traveller's 
beverage  and  refreshed  his  steed.  Here  then 
men  saluted  one  another,  and  heard  and  told  the 
news,  and  went  their  ways  again. 

Breed's  hut  was  standing  only  a  dozen  years 
ago,  though  it  had  long  been  unoccupied.  It 
was  about  the  size  of  mine.  It  was  set  on  fire 
by  mischievous  boys,  one  Election  night,  if  I 
do  not  mistake.  I  lived  on  the  edge  of  the  vil 
lage  then,  and  had  just  lost  myself  over  Dave- 
nant's  Gondibert,  that  winter  that  I  labored 
with  a  lethargy,  —  which,  by  the  way,  I  never 
knew  whether  to  regard  as  a  family  complaint, 
having  an  uncle  who  goes  to  sleep  shaving  him 
self,  and  is  obliged  to  sprout  potatoes  in  a  cellar 
Sundays,  in  order  to  keep  awake  and  keep  the 
Sabbath,  or  as  the  consequence  of  my  attempt 
to  read  Chalmers'  collection  of  English  poetry 
without  skipping.  It  fairly  overcame  my  Nervii. 
I  had  just  sunk  my  head  on  this  when  the  bells 
rang  fire,  and  in  hot  haste  the  engines  rolled 
that  way,  led  by  a  straggling  troop  of  men  and 
boys,  and  I  among  the  foremost,  for  I  had  leaped 
the  brook.  We  thought  it  was  far  south  over 
the  woods,  —  we  who  had  run  to  fires  before,  — 
barn,  shop,  or  dwelling-house,  or  all  together. 
"It 's  Baker's  barn,"  cried  one.  "It  is  the  Cod- 
man  Place,"  affirmed  another.  And  then  fresh 

344  WALDEN 

sparks  went  up  above  the  wood,  as  if  the  roof 
fell  in,  and  we  all  shouted  "Concord  to  the 
rescue!"  Wagons  shot  past  with  furious  speed 
and  crushing  loads,  bearing,  perchance,  among 
the  rest,  the  agent  of  the  Insurance  Company, 
who  was  bound  to  go  however  far;  and  ever 
and  anon  the  engine  bell  tinkled  behind,  more 
slow  and  sure,  and  rearmost  of  all,  as  it  was 
afterward  whispered,  came  they  who  set  the 
fire  and  gave  the  alarm.  Thus  we  kept  on  like 
true  idealists,  rejecting  the  evidence  of  our 
senses,  until  at  a  turn  in  the  road  we  heard  the 
crackling  and  actually  felt  the  heat  of  the  fire 
from  over  the  wall,  and  realized,  alas !  that  we 
were  there.  The  very  nearness  of  the  fire  but 
cooled  our  ardor.  At  first  we  thought  to  throw 
a  frog-pond  on  to  it;  but  concluded  to  let  it 
burn,  it  was  so  far  gone  and  so  worthless.  So 
we  stood  round  our  engine,  jostled  one  another, 
expressed  our  sentiments  through  speaking  trum 
pets,  or  in  lower  tone  referred  to  the  great 
conflagrations  which  the  world  has  witnessed, 
including  Bascom's  shop,  and,  between  our 
selves,  we  thought  that,  were  we  there  in  season 
with  our  "tub"  and  a  full  frog-pond  by,  we  could 
turn  that  threatened  last  and  universal  one  into 
another  flood.  We  finally  retreated  without 
doing  any  mischief,  —  returned  to  sleep  and 
Gondibert.  But  as  for  Gondibert,  I  would  ex 
cept  that  passage  in  the  preface  about  wit  being 


the  soul's  powder, -- "but  most  of  mankind 
are  strangers  to  wit,  as  Indians  are  to  pow 

It  chanced  that  I  walked  that  way  across  the 
fields  the  following  night,  about  the  same  hour, 
and  hearing  a  low  moaning  at  this  spot,  I  drew 
near  in  the  dark,  and  discovered  the  only  sur 
vivor  of  the  family  that  I  know,  the  heir  of  both 
its  virtues  and  its  vices,  who  alone  was  interested 
in  this  burning,  lying  on  his  stomach  and  look 
ing  over  the  cellar  wall  at  the  still  smouldering 
cinders  beneath,  muttering  to  himself,  as  is  his 
wont.  He  had  been  working  far  off  in  the  river 
meadow  all  day,  and  had  improved  the  first 
moments  that  he  could  call  his  own  to  visit  the 
home  of  his  fathers  and  his  youth.  He  gazed 
into  the  cellar  from  all  sides  and  points  of  view 
by  turns,  always  lying  down  to  it,  as  if  there  was 
some  treasure,  which  he  remembered,  con 
cealed  between  the  stones,  where  there  was  ab 
solutely  nothing  but  a  heap  of  bricks  and  ashes. 
The  house  being  gone,  he  looked  at  what  there 
was  left.  He  was  soothed  by  the  sympathy 
which  my  mere  presence  implied,  and  showed 
me,  as  well  as  the  darkness  permitted,  where  the 
well  was  covered  up;  which,  thank  Heaven, 
could  never  be  burned;  and  he  groped  long 
about  the  wall  to  find  the  well-sweep  which  his 
father  had  cut  and  mounted,  feeling  for  the  iron 
hook  or  staple  by  which  a  burden  had  been 

346  WALDEN 

fastened  to  the  heavy  end,  —  all  that  he  could 
now  cling  to,  —  to  convince  me  that  it  was  no 
common  "rider."  I  felt  it,  and  still  remark  it 
almost  daily  in  my  walks,  for  by  it  hangs  the 
history  of  a  family. 

Once  more,  on  the  left,  where  are  seen  the 
well  and  lilac  bushes  by  the  wall,  in  the  now 
open  field,  lived  Nutting  and  Le  Grosse.  But 
to  return  toward  Lincoln. 

Farther  in  the  woods  than  any  of  these,  where 
the  road  approaches  nearest  to  the  pond,  Wy- 
man  the  potter  squatted,  and  furnished  his 
townsmen  with  earthen  ware,  and  left  descend 
ants  to  succeed  him.  Neither  were  they  rich  in 
worldly  goods,  holding  the  land  by  sufferance 
while  they  lived;  and  there  often  the  sheriff 
came  in  vain  to  collect  the  taxes,  and  "attached 
a  chip,"  for  form's  sake,  as  I  have  read  in  his 
accounts,  there  being  nothing  else  that  he  could 
lay  his  hands  on.  One  day  in  midsummer, 
when  I  was  hoeing,  a  man  who  was  carrying  a 
load  of  pottery  to  market  stopped  his  horse 
against  my  field  and  inquired  concerning  Wy- 
man  the  younger.  He  had  long  ago  bought  a 
potter's  wheel  of  him,  and  wished  to  know  what 
had  become  of  him.  I  had  read  of  the  potter's 
clay  and  wheel  in  Scripture,  but  it  had  never 
occurred  to  me  that  the  pots  we  use  were  not 
such  as  had  come  down  unbroken  from  those 
days,  or  grown  on  trees  like  gourds  somewhere, 


and  I  was  pleased  to  hear  that  so  fictile  an  art 
was  ever  practised  in  my  neighborhood. 

The  last  inhabitant  of  these  woods  before  me 
was  an  Irishman,  Hugh  Quoil  (if  I  have  spelt 
his  name  with  coil  enough),  who  occupied  Wy- 
man's  tenement,  —  Col.  Quoil,  he  was  called. 
Rumor  said  that  he  had  been  a  soldier  at  Water 
loo.  If  he  had  lived  I  should  have  made  him 
fight  his  battles  over  again.  His  trade  here  was 
that  of  a  ditcher.  Napoleon  went  to  St.  Helena ; 
Quoil  came  to  Walden  Woods.  All  I  know  of 
him  is  tragic.  He  was  a  man  of  manners,  like 
one  who  had  seen  the  world,  and  was  capable 
of  more  civil  speech  than  you  could  well  attend 
to.  He  wore  a  great  coat  in  midsummer,  being 
affected  with  the  trembling  delirium,  and  his 
face  was  the  color  of  carmine.  He  died  in  the 
road  at  the  foot  of  Brister's  Hill  shortly  after  I 
came  to  the  woods,  so  that  I  have  not  remem 
bered  him  as  a  neighbor.  Before  his  house  was 
pulled  down,  when  his  comrades  avoided  it  as 
"an  unlucky  castle,"  I  visited  it.  There  lay  his 
old  clothes  curled  up  by  use,  as  if  they  were 
himself,  upon  his  raised  plank  bed.  His  pipe 
lay  broken  on  the  hearth,  instead  of  a  bowl 
broken  at  the  fountain.  The  last  could  never 
have  been  the  symbol  of  his  death,  for  he  con 
fessed  to  me  that,  though  he  had  heard  of  Bris 
ter's  Spring,  he  had  never  seen  it;  and  soiled 
cards,  kings  of  diamonds,  spades,  and  hearts, 

348  WALDEN 

were  scattered  over  the  floor.  One  black  chicken 
which  the  administrator  could  not  catch,  black 
as  night  and  as  silent,  not  even  croaking,  await 
ing  Reynard,  still  went  to  roost  in  the  next  apart 
ment.  In  the  rear  there  was  the  dim  outline  of  a 
a  garden,  which  had  been  planted  but  had  never 
received  its  first  hoeing,  owing  to  those  terrible 
shaking  fits,  though  it  was  now  harvest  time. 
It  was  overrun  with  Roman  wormwood  and 
beggar-ticks,  which  last  stuck  to  my  clothes  for 
all  fruit.  The  skin  of  a  woodchuck  was  freshly 
stretched  upon  the  back  of  the  house,  a  trophy 
of  his  last  Waterloo;  but  no  warm  cap  or  mit 
tens  would  he  want  more. 

Now  only  a  dent  in  the  earth  marks  the  site 
of  these  dwellings,  with  buried  cellar  stones,  and 
strawberries,  raspberries,  thimble-berries,  hazel 
bushes,  and  sumachs  growing  in  the  sunny  sward 
there;  some  pitch-pine  or  gnarled  oak  occupies 
what  was  the  chimney  nook,  and  a  sweet-scented 
black-birch,  perhaps,  waves  where  the  door- 
stone  was.  Sometimes  the  well  dent  is  visible, 
where  once  a  spring  oozed;  now  dry  and  tear 
less  grass ;  or  it  was  covered  deep,  —  not  to  be 
discovered  till  some  late  day,  —  with  a  flat  stone 
under  the  sod,  when  the  last  of  the  race  departed. 
What  a  sorrowful  act  must  that  be,  —  the  cov 
ering  up  of  wells  !  coincident  with  the  opening 
of  wells  of  tears.  These  cellar  dents,  like  de 
serted  fox  burrows,  old  holes,  are  all  that  is  left 


where  once  were  the  stir  and  bustle  of  human 
life,  and  "fate,  free-will,  foreknowledge  abso 
lute,"  in  some  form  and  dialect  or  other  were  by 
turns  discussed.  But  all  I  can  learn  of  their  con 
clusions  amounts  to  just  this,  that  "Cato  and 
Brister  pulled  wool;"  which  is  about  as  edify 
ing  as  the  history  of  more  famous  schools  of 

Still  grows  the  vivacious  lilac  a  generation 
after  the  door  and  lintel  and  the  sill  are  gone, 
unfolding  its  sweet-scented  flowers  each  spring, 
to  be  plucked  by  the  musing  traveller;  planted 
and  tended  once  by  children's  hands,  in  front- 
yard  plots,  —  now  standing  by  wall-sides  in  re 
tired  pastures,  and  giving  place  to  new-rising 
forests;  —  the  last  of  that  stirp,  sole  survivor  of 
that  family.  Little  did  the  dusky  children  think 
that  the  puny  slip  with  its  two  eyes  only,  which 
they  stuck  in  the  ground  in  the  shadow  of  the 
house  and  daily  watered,  would  root  itself  so, 
and  outlive  them,  and  house  itself  in  the  rear 
that  shaded  it,  and  grow  man's  garden  and 
orchard,  and  tell  their  story  faintly  to  the  lone 
wanderer  a  half  century  after  they  had  grown 
up  and  died,  --  blossoming  as  fair,  and  smelling 
as  swreet,  as  in  that  first  spring.  I  mark  its  still 
tender,  civil,  cheerful,  lilac  colors. 

But  this  small  village,  germ  of  something  more, 
why  did  it  fail  while  Concord  keeps  its  ground  ? 
Were  there  no  natural  advantages,  —  no  water 

350  WALDEN 

privileges,  forsooth  ?  Ay,  the  deep  Walden  Pond 
and  cool  Brister's  Spring,  —  privilege  to  drink 
long  and  healthy  draughts  at  these,  all  unim 
proved  by  these  men  but  to  dilute  their  glass. 
They  were  universally  a  thirsty  race.  Might 
not  the  basket,  stable-broom,  mat-making,  corn- 
parching,  linen-spinning,  and  pottery  business 
have  thrived  here,  making  the  wilderness  to 
blossom  like  the  rose,  and  a  numerous  posterity 
have  inherited  the  land  of  their  fathers?  The 
sterile  soil  would  at  least  have  been  proof  against 
a  low-land  degeneracy.  Alas  !  how  little  does 
the  memory  of  these  human  inhabitants  enhance 
the  beauty  of  the  landscape !  Again,  perhaps, 
Nature  will  try,  with  me  for  a  first  settler,  and 
my  house  raised  last  spring  to  be  the  oldest  in 
the  hamlet. 

I  am  not  aware  that  any  man  has  ever  built  on 
the  spot  which  I  occupy.  Deliver  me  from  a 
city  built  on  the  site  of  a  more  ancient  city,  whose 
materials  are  ruins,  whose  gardens  cemeteries. 
The  soil  is  blanched  and  accursed  there,  and 
before  that  becomes  necessary  the  earth  itself 
will  be  destroyed.  With  such  reminiscences  I 
repeopled  the  woods  and  lulled  myself  asleep. 

At  this  season  I  seldom  had  a  visitor.  When 
the  snow  lay  deepest  no  wanderer  ventured  near 
my  house  for  a  week  or  a  fortnight  at  a  time,  but 
there  I  lived  as  snug  as  a  meadow  mouse,  or  as 

FORMER    INHABITANTS          351 

cattle  and  poultry  which  are  said  to  have  sur 
vived  for  a  long  time  buried  in  drifts,  even  without 
food;  or  like  that  early  settler's  family  in  the 
town  of  Sutton,  in  this  state,  whose  cottage  was 
completely  covered  by  the  great  snow  of  1717 
when  he  was  absent,  and  an  Indian  found  it  only 
by  the  hole  which  the  chimney's  breath  made  in 
the  drift,  and  so  relieved  the  family.  But  no 
friendly  Indian  concerned  himself  about  me ;  nor 
needed  he,  for  the  master  of  the  house  was  at 
home.  The  Great  Snow  !  How  cheerful  it  is 
to  hear  of !  When  the  farmers  could  not  get  to 
the  woods  and  swamps  with  their  teams,  and 
were  obliged  to  cut  down  the  shade  trees  before 
their  houses,  and  when  the  crust  was  harder  cut 
off  the  trees  in  the  swamps  ten  feet  from  the 
ground,  as  it  appeared  the  next  spring. 

In  the  deepest  snows,  the  path  which  I  used 
from  the  highway  to  my  house,  about  half  a 
mile  long,  might  have  been  represented  by  a 
meandering  dotted  line,  with  wide  intervals  be 
tween  the  dots.  For  a  week  of  even  weather  I 
took  exactly  the  same  number  of  steps,  and  of 
the  same  length,  coming  and  going,  stepping  de 
liberately  and  with  the  precision  of  a  pair  of 
dividers  in  my  own  deep  tracks,  --to  such  rou 
tine  the  winter  reduces  us,  —  yet  often  they 
were  filled  with  heaven's  own  blue.  But  no 
weather  interfered  fatally  with  my  walks,  or 
rather  my  going  abroad,  for  I  frequently  tramped 

352  WALDEN 

eight  or  ten  miles  through  the  deepest  snow  to 
keep  an  appointment  with  a  beech  tree,  or  a 
yellow-birch,  or  an  old  acquaintance  among  the 
pines;  when  the  ice  and  snow,  causing  their 
limbs  to  droop,  and  so  sharpening  their  tops, 
had  changed  the  pines  into  fir  trees;  wading  to 
the  tops  of  the  highest  hills  when  the  snow  was 
nearly  two  feet  deep  on  a  level,  and  shaking 
down  another  snow-storm  on  my  head  at  every 
step;  or  sometimes  creeping  and  floundering 
thither  on  my  hands  and  knees,  when  the  hunt 
ers  had  gone  into  winter  quarters.  One  after 
noon  I  amused  myself  by  watching  a  barred  owl 
(Strix  nebulosa)  sitting  on  one  of  the  lower  dead 
limbs  of  a  white-pine,  close  to  the  trunk,  in  broad 
daylight,  I  standing  within  a  rod  of  him.  He 
could  hear  me  when  I  moved  and  cronched  the 
snow  with  my  feet,  but  could  not  plainly  see  me. 
When  I  made  most  noise  he  would  stretch  out  his 
neck,  and  erect  his  neck  feathers,  and  open  his 
eyes  wide;  but  their  lids  soon  fell  again,  and  he 
began  to  nod.  I  too  felt  a  slumberous  influence 
after  watching  him  half  an  hour,  as  he  sat 
thus  with  his  eyes  half  open,  like  a  cat,  winged 
brother  of  the  cat.  There  was  only  a  narrow  slit 
between  their  lids,  by  which  he  preserved  a 
peninsular  relation  to  me;  thus,  with  half-shut 
eyes,  looking  out  from  the  land  of  dreams,  and 
endeavoring  to  realize  me,  vague  object  or  mote 
that  interrupted  his  visions.  At  length,  on  some 

The  icy  trees 


louder  noise  or  my  nearer  approach,  he  would 
grow  uneasy  and  sluggishly  turn  about  on  his 
perch,  as  if  impatient  at  having  his  dreams  dis 
turbed;  and  when  he  launched  himself  off  and 
flapped  through  the  pines,  spreading  his  wings 
to  unexpected  breadth,  I  could  not  hear  the 
slightest  sound  from  them.  Thus,  guided  amid 
the  pine  boughs  rather  by  a  delicate  sense  of  their 
neighborhood  than  by  sight,  feeling  his  twilight 
way  as  it  were  with  his  sensitive  pinions,  he  found 
a  new  perch,  where  he  might  in  peace  await  the 
dawning  of  his  day. 

As  I  walked  over  the  long  causeway  made  for 
the  railroad  through  the  meadows,  I  encountered 
many  a  blustering  and  nipping  wind,  for  no 
where  has  it  freer  play ;  and  when  the  frost  had 
smitten  me  on  one  cheek,  heathen  as  I  was,  I 
turned  to  it  the  other  also.  Nor  was  it  much  bet 
ter  by  the  carriage  road  from  Blister's  Hill. 
For  I  came  to  town  still,  like  a  friendly  Indian, 
when  the  contents  of  the  broad  open  fields  were 
all  piled  up  between  the  walls  of  the  Walden 
road,  and  half  an  hour  sufficed  to  obliterate  the 
tracks  of  the  last  traveller.  And  when  I  returned 
new  drifts  would  have  formed  through  which  I 
floundered,  where  the  busy  northwest  wind  had 
been  depositing  the  powdery  snow  round  a 
sharp  angle  in  the  road,  and  not  a  rabbit's  track, 
nor  even  the  fine  print,  the  small  type,  of  a 
meadow  mouse  was  to  be  seen.  Yet  I  rarely 


354  WALDEN 

failed  to  find,  even  in  mid-winter,  some  warm 
and  springy  swamp  where  the  grass  and  the 
skunk-cabbage  still  put  forth  with  perennial  ver 
dure,  and  some  hardier  bird  occasionally  awaited 
the  return  of  spring. 

Sometimes,  notwithstanding  the  snow,  when  I 
returned  from  my  walk  at  evening  I  crossed  the 
deep  tracks  of  a  woodchopper  leading  from  my 
door,  and  found  his  pile  of  whittlings  on  the 
hearth,  and  my  house  filled  with  the  odor  of  his 
pipe.  Or  on  a  Sunday  afternoon,  if  I  chanced  to 
be  at  home,  I  heard  the  cronching  of  the  snow 
made  by  the  step  of  a  long-headed  farmer,  who 
from  far  through  the  woods  sought  my  house,  to 
have  a  social  "crack" ;  one  of  the  few  of  his  vo 
cation  who  are  "men  on  their  farms";  who 
donned  a  frock  instead  of  a  professor's  gown,  and 
is  as  ready  to  extract  the  moral  out  of  church  or 
state  as  to  haul  a  load  of  manure  from  his  barn 
yard.  We  talked  of  rude  and  simple  times,  when 
men  sat  about  large  fires  in  cold  bracing  weather, 
with  clear  heads;  and  when  other  dessert 
failed,  we  tried  our  teeth  on  many  a  nut  which 
wise  squirrels  have  long  since  abandoned,  for 
those  which  have  the  thickest  shells  are  com 
monly  empty. 

The  one  who  came  from  farthest  to  my  lodge, 
through  deepest  snows  and  most  dismal  tem 
pests,  was  a  poet.  A  farmer,  a  hunter,  a  soldier, 
a  reporter,  even  a  philosopher,  may  be  daunted; 


but  nothing  can  deter  a  poet,  for  he  is  actuated  by 
pure  love.  Who  can  predict  his  comings  and 
goings  ?  His  business  calls  him  out  at  all  hours, 
even  when  doctors  sleep.  We  made  that  small 
house  ring  with  boisterous  mirth  and  resound 
with  the  murmur  of  much  sober  talk,  making 
amends  then  to  Walden  vale  for  the  long  silences. 
Broadway  was  still  and  deserted  in  comparison. 
At  suitable  intervals  there  were  regular  salutes 
of  laughter,  which  might  have  been  referred  in 
differently  to  the  last-uttered  or  the  forthcoming 
jest.  We  made  many  a  "bran  new"  theory  of 
life  over  a  thin  dish  of  gruel,  which  combined 
the  advantages  of  conviviality  with  the  clear 
headedness  which  philosophy  requires. 

I  should  not  forget  that  during  my  last  winter 
at  the  pond  there  was  another  welcome  visitor, 
who  at  one  time  came  through  the  village,  through 
snow  and  rain  and  darkness,  till  he  saw  my  lamp 
through  the  trees,  and  shared  with  me  some  long 
winter  evenings.  One  of  the  last  of  the  philoso 
phers,  —  Connecticut  gave  him  to  the  world,  - 
he  peddled  first  her  wares,  afterwards,  as  he  de 
clares,  his  brains.  These  he  peddles  still,  prompt 
ing  God  and  disgracing  man,  bearing  for  fruit 
his  brain  only,  like  the  nut  its  kernel.  I  think  that 
he  must  be  the  man  of  the  most  faith  of  any  alive. 
His  words  and  attitude  always  suppose  a  better 
state  of  things  than  other  men  are  acquainted 
with,  and  he  will  be  the  last  man  to  be  disap- 

356  WALDEN 

pointed  as  the  ages  revolve.  He  has  no  venture 
in  the  present.  But  though  comparatively  dis 
regarded  now,  when  his  day  comes,  laws  unsus 
pected  by  most  will  take  effect,  and  masters  of 
families  and  rulers  will  come  to  him  for  advice.  — 

"How  blind  that  cannot  see  serenity!" 

A  true  friend  of  man ;  almost  the  only  friend  of 
human  progress.  An  Old  Mortality,  say  rather 
an  Immortality,  with  unwearied  patience  and 
faith  making  plain  the  image  engraven  in  men's 
bodies,  the  God  of  whom  they  are  but  defaced 
and  leaning  monuments.  With  his  hospitable 
intellect  he  embraces  children,  beggars,  insane, 
and  scholars,  and  entertains  the  thought  of  all, 
adding  to  it  commonly  some  breadth  and  ele 
gance.  I  think  that  he  should  keep  a  caravansary 
on  the  world's  highway,  where  philosophers  of  all 
nations  might  put  up,  and  on  his  sign  should  be 
printed:  "Entertainment  for  man,  but  not  for 
his  beast.  Enter  ye  that  have  leisure  and  a  quiet 
mind,  who  earnestly  seek  the  right  road."  He 
is  perhaps  the  sanest  man  and  has  the  fewest 
crotchets  of  any  I  chance  to  know;  the  same 
yesterday  and  to-morrow.  Of  yore  we  had  saun 
tered  and  talked,  and  effectually  put  the  world 
behind  us ;  for  he  was  pledged  to  no  institution 
in  it,  freeborn,  ingenuus.  Whichever  way  we 
turned,  it  seemed  that  the  heavens  and  the  earth 
had  met  together,  since  he  enhanced  the  beauty 


of  the  landscape.  A  blue-robed  man,  whose 
fittest  roof  is  the  overarching  sky  which  reflects 
his  serenity.  I  do  not  see  how  he  can  ever  die ; 
Nature  cannot  spare  him. 

Having  each  some  shingles  of  thought  well 
dried,  we  sat  and  whittled  them,  trying  our  knives, 
and  admiring  the  clear  yellowish  grain  of  the 
pumpkin  pine.  We  waded  so  gently  and  rever 
ently,  or  we  pulled  together  so  smoothly,  that  the 
fishes  of  thought  were  not  scared  from  the  stream, 
nor  feared  any  angler  on  the  bank,  but  came  and 
went  grandly,  like  the  clouds  which  float  through 
the  western  sky,  and  the  mother-o'-pearl  flocks 
which  sometimes  form  and  dissolve  there.  There 
we  worked,  revising  mythology,  rounding  a  fable 
here  and  there,  and  building  castles  in  the  air 
for  which  earth  offered  no  worthy  foundation. 
Great  Looker !  Great  Expecter !  to  converse 
with  whom  was  a  New  England  Night's  Enter 
tainment.  Ah  !  such  discourse  we  had,  hermit 
and  philosopher,  and  the  old  settler  I  have  spoken 
of, --we  three,  —  it  expanded  and  racked  my 
little  house ;  I  should  not  dare  to  say  how  many 
pounds'  weight  there  was  above  the  atmospheric 
pressure  on  every  circular  inch;  it  opened  its 
seams  so  that  they  had  to  be  calked  with  much 
dulness  thereafter  to  stop  the  consequent  leak; 
-  but  I  had  enough  of  that  kind  of  oakum 
already  picked. 

There  was  one  other  with  whom  I  had  "solid 

358  WALDEN 

seasons,"  long  to  be  remembered,  at  his  house 
in  the  village,  and  who  looked  in  upon  me  from 
time  to  time;  but  I  had  no  more  for  society 

There  too,  as  everywhere,  I  sometimes  ex 
pected  the  Visitor  who  never  comes.  The 
Vishnu  Purana  says,  "The  house-holder  is  to 
remain  at  eventide  in  his  courtyard  as  long  as  it 
takes  to  milk  a  cow,  or  longer  if  he  pleases,  to 
await  the  arrival  of  a  guest."  I  often  performed 
this  duty  of  hospitality,  waited  long  enough  to 
milk  a  whole  herd  of  cows,  but  did  not  see  the 
man  approaching  from  the  town. 



WHEN  the  ponds  were  firmly  frozen,  they 
afforded  not  only  new  and  shorter  routes 
to  many  points,  but  new  views  from  their 
surfaces  of  the  familiar  landscape  around  them. 
When  I  crossed  Flint's  Pond,  after  it  was  covered 
with  snow,  though  I  had  often  paddled  about  and 
skated  over  it,  it  was  so  unexpectedly  wide  and  so 
strange  that  I  could  think  of  nothing  but  Baf 
fin's  Bay.  The  Lincoln  hills  rose  up  around  me 
at  the  extremity  of  a  snowy  plain,  in  which  I  did 
not  remember  to  have  stood  before;  and  the 
fishermen,  at  an  indeterminable  distance  over 
the  ice,  moving  slowly  about  with  their  wolfish 
dogs,  passed  for  sealers  or  Esquimaux,  or  in 
misty  weather  loomed  like  fabulous  creatures, 
and  I  did  not  know  whether  they  were  giants  or 
pygmies.  I  took  this  course  when  I  went  to  lec 
ture  in  Lincoln  in  the  evening,  travelling  in  no 
road  and  passing  no  house  between  my  own  hut 
and  the  lecture  room.  In  Goose  Pond,  which 
lay  in  my  way,  a  colony  of  muskrats  dwelt,  and 
raised  their  cabins  high  above  the  ice,  though 
none  could  be  seen  abroad  when  I  crossed  it. 

360  WALDEN 

Walden,  being  like  the  rest  usually  bare  of  snow, 
or  with  only  shallow  and  interrupted  drifts  on  it, 
was  my  yard,  where  I  could  walk  freely  when  the 
snow  was  nearly  two  feet  deep  on  a  level  else 
where  and  the  villagers  were  confined  to  their 
streets.  There,  far  from  the  village  street,  and, 
except  at  very  long  intervals,  from  the  jingle  of 
sleigh-bells,  I  slid  and  skated,  as  in  a  vast  moose- 
yard  well  trodden,  overhung  by  oak  woods  and 
solemn  pines  bent  down  with  snow  or  bristling 
with  icicles. 

For  sounds  in  winter  nights,  and  often  in 
winter  days,  I  heard  the  forlorn  but  melodious 
note  of  a  hooting  owl  indefinitely  far;  such  a 
sound  as  the  frozen  earth  would  yield  if  struck 
with  a  suitable  plectrum,  the  very  lingua  ver- 
nacula  of  Walden  Wood,  and  quite  familiar 
to  me  at  last,  though  I  never  saw  the  bird  while 
it  was  making  it.  I  seldom  opened  my  door  in 
a  winter  evening  without  hearing  it;  Hoo  hoo 
hoo,  hoorer  hoo,  sounded  sonorously,  and  the 
first  three  syllables  accented  somewhat  like  how 
der  do;  or  sometimes  hoo  hoo  only.  One  night 
in  the  beginning  of  winter,  before  the  pond 
froze  over,  about  nine  o'clock,  I  was  startled  by 
the  loud  honking  of  a  goose,  and,  stepping  to 
the  door,  heard  the  sound  of  their  wings  like 
a  tempest  in  the  woods  as  they  flew  low  over 
my  house.  They  passed  over  the  pond  toward 
Fair-Haven,  seemingly  deterred  from  settling 


by  my  light,  their  commodore  honking  all  the 
while  with  a  regular  beat.  Suddenly  an  unmis 
takable  cat-owl  from  very  near  me,  with  the 
most  harsh  and  tremendous  voice  I  ever  heard 
from  any  inhabitant  of  the  woods,  responded 
at  regular  intervals  to  the  goose,  as  if  deter 
mined  to  expose  and  disgrace  this  intruder  from 
Hudson's  Bay  by  exhibiting  a  greater  compass 
and  volume  of  voice  in  a  native,  and  boo-hoo  him 
out  of  Concord  horizon.  What  do  you  mean 
by  alarming  the  citadel  at  this  time  of  night  con 
secrated  to  me  ?  Do  you  think  I  am  ever  caught 
napping  at  such  an  hour,  and  that  I  have  not 
got  lungs  and  a  larynx  as  well  as  yourself? 
Boo-hoo,  boo-hoo,  boo-hoo!  It  was  one  of  the 
most  thrilling  discords  I  ever  heard.  And  yet, 
if  you  had  a  discriminating  ear,  there  were  in  it 
the  elements  of  a  concord  such  as  these  plains 
never  saw  nor  heard. 

I  also  heard  the  whooping  of  the  ice  in  the 
pond,  my  great  bed-fellow  in  that  part  of  Con 
cord,  as  if  it  were  restless  in  its  bed  and  would 
fain  turn  over,  were  troubled  with  flatulency 
and  bad  dreams;  or  I  was  waked  by  the  crack 
ing  of  the  ground  by  the  frost,  as  if  some  one 
had  driven  a  team  against  my  door,  and  in  the 
morning  would  find  a  crack  in  the  earth  a  quarter 
of  a  mile  long  and  a  third  of  an  inch  wide. 

Sometimes  I  heard  the  foxes  as  they  ranged 
over  the  snow  crust,  in  moonlight  nights,  in 

362  WALDEN 

search  of  a  partridge  or  other  game,  barking 
raggedly  and  demoniacally  like  forest  dogs,  as 
if  laboring  with  some  anxiety,  or  seeking  ex 
pression,  struggling  for  light  and  to  be  dogs 
outright  and  run  freely  in  the  streets;  for  if 
we  take  the  ages  into  our  account,  may  there 
not  be  a  civilization  going  on  among  brutes  as 
well  as  men?  They  seemed  to  me  to  be  rudi- 
mental,  burrowing  men,  still  standing  on  their 
defence,  awaiting  their  transformation.  Some 
times  one  came  near  to  my  window,  attracted 
by  my  light,  barked  a  vulpine  curse  at  me,  and 
then  retreated. 

Usually  the  red  squirrel  (Sciurus  Hudsonius) 
waked  me  in  the  dawn,  coursing  over  the  roof 
and  up  and  down  the  sides  of  the  house,  as  if 
sent  out  of  the  woods  for  this  purpose.  In  the 
course  of  the  winter  I  threw  out  half  a  bushel 
of  ears  of  sweet-corn,  which  had  not  got  ripe, 
on  to  the  snow  crust  by  my  door,  and  was 
amused  by  watching  the  motions  of  the  various 
animals  which  were  baited  by  it.  In  the  twilight 
and  the  night  the  rabbits  came  regularly  and 
made  a  hearty  meal.  All  day  long  the  red 
squirrels  came  and  went,  and  afforded  me  much 
entertainment  by  their  manoeuvres.  One  would 
approach  at  first  warily  through  the  shrub-oaks, 
running  over  the  snow  crust  by  fits  and  starts 
like  a  leaf  blown  by  the  wind,  now  a  few  paces 
this  way,  with  wonderful  speed-  and  waste  of 


energy,  making  inconceivable  haste  with  his 
"trotters,"  as  if  it  were  for  a  wager,  and  now  as 
many  paces  that  way,  but  never  getting  on  more 
than  half  a  rod  at  a  time;  and  then  suddenly 
pausing  with  a  ludicrous  expression  and  a  gra 
tuitous  somerset,  as  if  all  the  eyes  in  the  universe 
were  fixed  on  him,  —  for  all  the  motions  of  a 
squirrel,  even  in  the  most  solitary  recesses  of 
the  forest,  imply  spectators  as  much  as  those  of 
a  dancing  girl,  —  wasting  more  time  in  delay 
and  circumspection  than  would  have  sufficed 
to  walk  the  whole  distance,  -  - 1  never  saw  one 
walk,  —  and  then  suddenly,  before  you  could 
say  Jack  Robinson,  he  would  be  in  the  top 
of  a  young  pitch-pine,  winding  up  his  clock  and 
chiding  all  imaginary  spectators,  soliloquizing 
and  talking  to  all  the  universe  at  the  same  time, 
-  for  no  reason  that  I  could  ever  detect,  or  he 
himself  was  aware  of,  I  suspect.  At  length  he 
would  reach  the  corn,  and  selecting  a  suitable 
ear,  brisk  about  in  the  same  uncertain  trigo 
nometrical  way  to  the  topmost  stick  of  my 
wood-pile,  before  my  window,  where  he  looked 
me  in  the  face,  and  there  sit  for  hours,  supply 
ing  himself  with  a  new  ear  from  time  to  time, 
nibbling  at  first  voraciously  and  throwing  the 
half-naked  cobs  about;  till  at  length  he  grew 
more  dainty  still  and  played  with  his  food, 
tasting  only  the  inside  of  the  kernel,  and  the 
ear,  which  was  held  balanced  over  the  stick  by 

364  WALDEN 

one  paw,  slipped  from  his  careless  grasp  and  fell 
to  the  ground,  when  he  would  look  over  at  it 
with  a  ludicrous  expression  of  uncertainty,  as 
if  suspecting  that  it  had  life,  with  a  mind  not 
made  up  whether  to  get  it  again,  or  a  new  one, 
or  be  off ;  now  thinking  of  corn,  then  listening 
to  hear  what  was  in  the  wind.  So  the  little 
impudent  fellow  would  waste  many  an  ear  in 
a  forenoon;  till  at  last,  seizing  some  longer 
and  plumper  one,  considerably  bigger  than 
himself,  and  skilfully  balancing  it,  he  would  set 
out  with  it  to  the  woods,  like  a  tiger  with  a  buf 
falo,  by  the  same  zigzag  course  and  frequent 
pauses,  scratching  along  with  it  as  if  it  were  too 
heavy  for  him  and  falling  all  the  while,  making 
its  fall  a  diagonal  between  a  perpendicular  and 
horizontal,  being  determined  to  put  it  through 
at  any  rate ;  —  a  singularly  frivolous  and  whim 
sical  fellow ;  —  and  so  he  would  get  off  with  it 
to  where  he  lived,  perhaps  carry  it  to  the  top 
of  a  pine  tree  forty  or  fifty  rods  distant,  and  I 
would  afterwards  find  the  cobs  strewed  about 
the  woods  in  various  directions. 

At  length  the  jays  arrive,  whose  discordant 
screams  were  heard  long  before,  as  they  were 
warily  making  their  approach  an  eighth  of  a 
mile  off ;  and  in  a  stealthy  and  sneaking  manner 
they  flit  from  tree  to  tree,  nearer  and  nearer,  and 
pick  up  the  kernels  which  the  squirrels  have 
dropped.  Then,  sitting  on  a  pitch-pine  bough, 


they  attempt  to  swallow  in  their  haste  a  kernel 
which  is  too  big  for  their  throats  and  chokes 
them;  and  after  great  labor  they  disgorge  it, 
and  spend  an  hour  in  the  endeavor  to  crack  it 
by  repeated  blows  with  their  bills.  They  were 
manifestly  thieves,  and  I  had  not  much  respect 
for  them;  but  the  squirrels,  though  at  first  shy, 
went  to  work  as  if  they  were  taking  what  was 
their  own. 

Meanwhile  also  came  the  chickadees  in  flocks, 
which,  picking  up  the  crumbs  the  squirrels 
had  dropped,  flew  to  the  nearest  twig,  and, 
placing  them  under  their  claws,  hammered  away 
at  them  with  their  little  bills,  as  if  it  were  an 
insect  in  the  bark,  till  they  were  sufficiently  re 
duced  for  their  slender  throats.  A  little  flock 
of  these  titmice  came  daily  to  pick  a  dinner  out 
of  my  wood-pile,  or  the  crumbs  at  my  door, 
with  faint  flitting  lisping  notes,  like  the  tinkling 
of  icicles  in  the  grass,  or  else  with  sprightly  day 
day  day,  or  more  rarely,  in  spring-like  days,  a 
wiry  summery  phe-be  from  the  wood-side.  They 
were  so  familiar  that  at  length  one  alighted  on 
an  armful  of  wood  which  I  was  carrying  in,  and 
pecked  at  the  sticks  without  fear.  I  once  had 
a  sparrow  alight  upon  my  shoulder  for  a  mo 
ment  while  I  was  hoeing  in  a  village  garden, 
and  I  felt  that  I  was  more  distinguished  by  that 
circumstance  than  I  should  have  been  by  any 
epaulet  I  could  have  worn.  The  squirrels  also 

366  WALDEN 

grew  at  last  to  be  quite  familiar,  and  occasion 
ally  stepped  upon  my  shoe,  when  that  was  the 
nearest  way. 

When  the  ground  was  not  yet  quite  covered, 
and  again  near  the  end  of  winter,  when  the  snow 
was  melted  on  my  south  hill  side  and  about  my 
wood-pile,  the  partridges  came  out  of  the  woods 
morning  and  evening  to  feed  there.  Which 
ever  side  you  walk  in  the  woods  the  partridge 
bursts  away  on  whirring  wings,  jarring  the  snow 
from  the  dry  leaves  and  twigs  on  high,  which 
comes  sifting  down  in  the  sunbeams  like  golden 
dust;  for  this  brave  bird  is  not  to  be  scared  by 
winter.  It  is  frequently  covered  up  by  drifts, 
and,  it  is  said,  "sometimes  plunges  from  on 
wing  into  the  soft  snow,  where  it  remains  con 
cealed  for  a  day  or  two."  I  used  to  start  them 
in  the  open  land  also,  where  they  had  come  out 
of  the  woods  at  sunset  to  "bud"  the  wild  apple 
trees.  They  will  come  regularly  every  evening 
to  particular  trees,  where  the  cunning  sports 
man  lies  in  wait  for  them,  and  the  distant  or 
chards  next  the  woods  suffer  thus  not  a  little. 
I  am  glad  that  the  partridge  gets  fed,  at  any 
rate.  It  is  Nature's  own  bird  which  lives  on 
buds  and  diet  drink. 

In  dark  winter  mornings,  or  in  short  winter 
afternoons,  I  sometimes  heard  a  pack  of  hounds 
threading  all  the  woods  with  hounding  cry  and 
yelp,  unable  to  resist  the  instinct  of  the  chase, 


and  the  note  of  the  hunting  horn  at  intervals, 
proving  that  man  was  in  the  rear.     The  woods 
ring  again,  and  yet  no  fox  bursts  forth  on  to  the 
open    level    of   the    pond,    nor    following    pack 
pursuing  their  Actseon.    And  perhaps  at  evening 
I  see  the  hunters  returning  with  a  single  brush 
trailing  from  their  sleigh  for  a  trophy,  seeking 
their  inn.     They  tell  me  that  if  the  fox  would 
remain  in  the  bosom  of  the  frozen  earth  he  would 
be  safe,  or  if  he  would  run  in  a  straight  line 
away  no  fox-hound  could  overtake  him;    but, 
having  left  his  pursuers  far  behind,  he  stops  to 
rest  and  listen  till  they  come  up,  and  when  he 
runs  he  circles  round  to  his  old  haunts,  where 
the  hunters  await  him.     Sometimes,   however, 
he  will  run  upon  a  wall  many  rods,  and  then 
leap  off  far  to  one  side,  and  he  appears  to  know 
that  water  will  not  retain  his  scent.     A  hunter 
told  me  that  he   once  saw  a  fox  pursued  by 
hounds  burst  out  on  to  Walden  when  the  ice 
was  covered  with  shallow  puddles,  run  part  way 
across,  and  then  return  to  the  same  shore.    Ere 
long  the  hounds  arrived,  but  here  they  lost  the 
scent.      Sometimes   a   pack   hunting    by   them 
selves  would  pass  my  door,  and  circle  round  my 
house,  and  yelp  and  hound  without  regarding 
me,  as  if  afflicted  by  a  species  of  madness,  so 
that  nothing  could  divert  them  from  the  pursuit. 
Thus  they  circle  until  they  fall  upon  the  recent 
trail  of  a  fox,  for  a  wise  hound  will  forsake  every- 

368  WALDEN 

thing  else  for  this.  One  day  a  man  came  to  my 
hut  from  Lexington  to  inquire  after  his  hound 
that  made  a  large  track,  and  had  been  hunting 
for  a  week  by  himself.  But  I  fear  that  he  was 
not  the  wiser  for  all  I  told  him,  for  every  time 
I  attempted  to  answer  his  questions  he  inter 
rupted  me  by  asking,  "What  do  you  do  here?" 
He  had  lost  a  dog,  but  found  a  man. 

One  old  hunter  who  has  a  dry  tongue,  who 
used  to  come  to  bathe  in  Walden  once  every 
year  when  the  water  was  warmest,  and  at  such 
times  looked  in  upon  me,  told  me  that  many 
years  ago  he  took  his  gun  one  afternoon  and 
went  out  for  a  cruise  in  Walden  Wood,  and  as 
he  walked  the  Wayland  road  he  heard  the  cry 
of  hounds  approaching,  and  erelong  a  fox 
leaped  the  wall  into  the  road,  and  as  quick  as 
thought  leaped  the  other  wall  out  of  the  road, 
and  his  swift  bullet  had  not  touched  him.  Some 
way  behind  came  an  old  hound  and  her  three 
pups  in  full  pursuit,  hunting  on  their  own  ac 
count,  and  disappeared  again  in  the  woods. 
Late  in  the  afternoon,  as  he  was  resting  in  the 
thick  woods  south  of  Walden,  he  heard  the 
voice  of  the  hounds  far  over  toward  Fair-Haven 
still  pursuing  the  fox;  and  on  they  came,  their 
hounding  cry  which  made  all  the  woods  ring 
sounding  nearer  and  nearer,  now  from  Well- 
Meadow,  now  from  the  Baker  Farm.  For  a 
long  time  he  stood  still  and  listened  to  their 


music,  so  sweet  to  a  hunter's  ear,  when  sud 
denly  the  fox  appeared,  threading  the  solemn 
aisles  with  an  easy  coursing  pace,  whose  sound 
was  concealed  by  a  sympathetic  rustle  of  the 
leaves,  swift  and  still,  keeping  the  ground,  leav 
ing  his  pursuers  far  behind;  and,  leaping  upon 
a  rock  amid  the  woods,  he  sat  erect  and  listen 
ing,  with  his  back  to  the  hunter.  For  a  moment 
compassion  restrained  the  latter's  arm;  but 
that  was  a  short-lived  mood,  and  as  quick  as 
thought  can  follow  thought  his  piece  was  lev 
elled,  and  whang  !  —  the  fox  rolling  over  the  rock 
lay  dead  on  the  ground.  The  hunter  still  kept 
his  place  and  listened  to  the  hounds.  Still  on 
they  came,  and  now  the  near  woods  resounded 
through  all  their  aisles  with  their  demoniac 
cry.  At  length  the  old  hound  burst  into  view 
with  muzzle  to  the  ground,  and  snapping  the 
air  as  if  possessed,  and  ran  directly  to  the  rock; 
but  spying  the  dead  fox  she  suddenly  ceased 
her  hounding,  as  if  struck  dumb  with  amaze 
ment,  and  walked  round  and  round  him  in 
silence;  and  one  by  one  her  pups  arrived,  and, 
like  their  mother,  were  sobered  into  silence  by 
the  mystery.  Then  the  hunter  came  forward 
and  stood  in  their  midst,  and  the  mystery  was 
solved.  They  waited  in  silence  while  he  skinned 
the  fox,  then  followed  the  brush  awhile,  and  at 
length  turned  off  into  the  woods  again.  That 
evening  a  Weston  Squire  came  to  the  Concord 

370  WALDEN 

hunter's  cottage  to  inquire  for  his  hounds,  and 
told  how  for  a  week  they  had  been  hunting  on 
their  own  account  from  Weston  woods.  The 
Concord  hunter  told  him  what  he  knew  and 
offered  him  the  skin;  but  the  other  declined  it 
and  departed.  He  did  not  find  his  hounds  that 
night,  but  the  next  day  learned  that  they  had 
crossed  the  river  and  put  up  at  a  farm-house 
for  the  night,  whence,  having  been  well  fed, 
they  took  their  departure  early  in  the  morning. 

The  hunter  who  told  me  this  could  remember 
one  Sam  Nutting,  who  used  to  hunt  bears  on 
Fair-Haven  Ledges,  and  exchange  their  skins 
for  rum  in  Concord  village ;  who  told  him,  even, 
that  he  had  seen  a  moose  there.  Nutting  had  a 
famous  fox-hound  named  Burgoyne,  -  -  he  pro 
nounced  it  Bugine,  —  which  my  informant  used 
to  borrow.  In  the  "Wast  Book"  of  an  old 
trader  of  this  town,  who  was  also  a  captain, 
town-clerk,  and  representative,  I  find  the  fol 
lowing  entry:  Jan.  18th,  1742-3,  "John  Melven 
Cr.  by  1  Grey  Fox  0—2—3;"  they  are  not 
found  here;  and  in  his  ledger,  Feb.  7th,  1743, 
Hezekiah  Stratton  has  credit  "by  J  a  Catt  skin 
0 — 1 — 4J;"  of  course  a  wild-cat,  for  Strat 
ton  was  a  sergeant  in  the  old  French  war,  and 
would  not  have  got  credit  for  hunting  less 
noble  game.  Credit  is  given  for  deerskins  also, 
and  they  were  daily  sold.  One  man  still  pre 
serves  the  horns  of  the  last  deer  that  was  killed 


in  this  vicinity,  and  another  has  told  me  the 
particulars  of  the  hunt  in  which  his  uncle  was 
engaged.  The  hunters  were  formerly  a  numer 
ous  and  merry  crew  here.  I  remember  well 
one  gaunt  Nimrod  who  would  catch  up  a  leaf 
by  the  road-side  and  play  a  strain  on  it  wilder 
and  more  melodious,  if  my  memory  serves  me, 
than  any  hunting  horn. 

At  midnight,  when  there  was  a  moon,  I  some 
times  met  with  hounds  in  my  path  prowling 
about  the  woods,  which  would  skulk  out  of  my 
way,  as  if  afraid,  and  stand  silent  amid  the 
bushes  till  I  had  passed. 

Squirrels  and  wild  mice  disputed  for  my 
store  of  nuts.  There  were  scores  of  pitch-pines 
around  my  house,  from  one  to  four  inches  in 
diameter,  which  had  been  gnawed  by  mice  the 
previous  winter,  —  a  Norwegian  winter  for 
them,  for  the  snow  lay  long  and  deep,  and  they 
were  obliged  to  mix  a  large  proportion  of  pine 
bark  with  their  other  diet.  These  trees  were 
alive  and  apparently  flourishing  at  mid-summer, 
and  many  of  them  had  grown  a  foot,  though  com 
pletely  girdled;  but  after  another  winter  such 
were  without  exception  dead.  It  is  remark 
able  that  a  single  mouse  should  thus  be  allowed 
a  whole  pine  tree  for  its  dinner,  gnawing  round 
instead  of  up  and  down  it;  but  perhaps  it  is 
necessary  in  order  to  thin  these  trees,  which 
are  wont  to  grow  up  densely. 

372  WALDEN 

The  hares  (Lepus  Americanus)  were  very 
familiar.  One  had  her  form  under  my  house 
all  winter,  separated  from  me  only  by  the  floor 
ing,  and  she  startled  me  each  morning  by  her 
hasty  departure  when  I  began  to  stir,  —  thump, 
thump,  thump,  striking  her  head  against  the 
floor  timbers  in  her  hurry.  They  used  to  come 
round  my  door  at  dusk  to  nibble  the  potato 
parings  which  I  had  thrown  out,  and  were  so 
nearly  the  color  of  the  ground  that  they  could 
hardly  be  distinguished  when  still.  Sometimes 
in  the  twilight  I  alternately  lost  and  recovered 
sight  of  one  sitting  motionless  under  my  window. 
When  I  opened  my  door  in  the  evening,  off  they 
would  go  with  a  squeak  and  a  bounce.  Near  at 
hand  they  only  excited  my  pity.  One  evening 
one  sat  by  my  door  two  paces  from  me,  at  first 
trembling  with  fear,  yet  unwilling  to  move;  a 
poor  wee  thing,  lean  and  bony,  with  ragged 
ears  and  sharp  nose,  scant  tail  and  slender  paws. 
It  looked  as  if  Nature  no  longer  contained  the 
breed  of  nobler  bloods,  but  stood  on  her  last 
toes.  Its  large  eyes  appeared  young  and  un 
healthy,  almost  dropsical.  I  took  a  step,  and 
lo,  away  it  scudded  with  an  elastic  spring  over 
the  snow  crust,  straightening  its  body  and  its 
limbs  into  graceful  length,  and  soon  put  the 
forest  between  me  and  itself,  —  the  wild  free 
venison,  asserting  its  vigor  and  the  dignity  of 
Nature.  Not  without  reason  was  its  slender- 


ness.    Such  then  was  its  nature.    (Lepus,  levipes, 
lightfoot,  some  think.) 

What  is  a  country  without  rabbits  and  par 
tridges  ?  They  are  among  the  most  simple  and 
indigenous  animal  products;  ancient  and  ven 
erable  families  known  to  antiquity  as  to  mod 
ern  times;  of  the  very  hue  and  substance  of 
Nature,  nearest  allied  to  leaves  and  to  the 
ground,  —  and  to  one  another ;  it  is  either 
winged  or  it  is  legged.  It  is  hardly  as  if  you  had 
seen  a  wild  creature  when  a  rabbit  or  a  partridge 
bursts  away,  only  a  natural  one,  as  much  to  be 
expected  as  rustling  leaves.  The  partridge  and 
the  rabbit  are  still  sure  to  thrive,  like  true  natives 
of  the  soil,  whatever  revolutions  occur.  If  the 
forest  is  cut  off,  the  sprouts  and  bushes  which 
spring  up  afford  them  concealment,  and  they 
become  more  numerous  than  ever.  That  must 
be  a  poor  country  indeed  that  does  not  support 
a  hare.  Our  woods  teem  with  them  both,  and 
around  every  swamp  may  be  seen  the  partridge 
or  rabbit  walk,  beset  with  twiggy  fences  and 
horse-hair  snares,  wrhich  some  cow-boy  tends. 



AFTER  a  still  winter  night  I  awoke  with 
the  impression  that  some  question  had 
been  put  to  me,  which  I  had  been  en 
deavoring  in  vain  to  answer  in  my  sleep,  as 
what  —  how  —  when  —  where  ?  But  there  was 
dawning  Nature,  in  whom  all  creatures  live, 
looking  in  at  my  broad  windows  with  serene  and 
satisfied  face,  and  no  question  on  her  lips.  I 
awoke  to  an  answered  question,  to  Nature  and 
daylight.  The  snow  lying  deep  on  the  earth 
dotted  with  young  pines,  and  the  very  slope  of 
the  hill  on  which  my  house  is  placed,  seemed  to 
say,  Forward !  Nature  puts  no  question  and 
answers  none  which  we  mortals  ask.  She  has 
long  ago  taken  her  resolution.  "O  Prince,  our 
eyes  contemplate  with  admiration  and  transmit 
to  the  soul  the  wonderful  and  varied  spectacle 
of  this  universe.  The  night  veils  without  doubt 
a  part  of  this  glorious  creation;  but  day  comes 
to  reveal  to  us  this  great  work,  which  extends 
from  earth  even  into  the  plains  of  the  ether." 

Then  to  my  morning  work.     First  I  take  an 
axe  and  pail  and  go  in  search  of  water,  if  that  be 

THE  POND   IN   WINTER         375 

not  a  dream.  After  a  cold  and  snowy  night  it 
needed  a  divining  rod  to  find  it.  Every  winter 
the  liquid  and  trembling  surface  of  the  pond, 
which  was  so  sensitive  to  every  breath,  and  re 
flected  every  light  and  shadow,  becomes  solid 
to  the  depth  of  a  foot  or  a  foot  and  a  half,  so  that 
it  will  support  the  heaviest  teams,  and  perchance 
the  snow  covers  it  to  an  equal  depth,  and  it  is 
not  to  be  distinguished  from  any  level  field. 
Like  the  marmots  in  the  surrounding  hills,  it 
closes  its  eyelids  and  becomes  dormant  for  three 
months  or  more.  Standing  on  the  snow-covered 
plain,  as  if  in  a  pasture  amid  the  hills,  I  cut  my 
way  first  through  a  foot  of  snow,  and  then  a  foot 
of  ice,  and  open  a  window  under  my  feet,  where, 
kneeling  to  drink,  I  look  down  into  the  quiet 
parlor  of  the  fishes,  pervaded  by  a  softened  light 
as  through  a  window  of  ground  glass,  with  its 
bright  sanded  floor  the  same  as  in  summer; 
there  a  perennial  waveless  serenity  reigns  as  in 
the  amber  twilight  sky,  corresponding  to  the 
cool  and  even  temperament  of  the  inhabitants. 
Heaven  is  under  our  feet  as  well  as  over  our 

Early  in  the  morning,  while  all  things  are  crisp 
with  frost,  men  come  with  fishing  reels  and 
slender  lunch,  and  let  down  their  fine  lines 
through  the  snowy  field  to  take  pickerel  and 
perch;  wild  men,  who  instinctively  follow  other 
fashions  and  trust  other  authorities  than  their 

376  WALDEN 

townsmen,  and  by  their  goings  and  comings 
stitch  towns  together  in  parts  where  else  they 
would  be  ripped.  They  sit  and  eat  their  lunch 
eon  in  stout  fear-naughts  on  the  dry  oak  leaves 
on  the  shore,  as  wise  in  natural  lore  as  the  citi 
zen  is  in  artificial.  They  never  consulted  with 
books,  and  know  and  can  tell  much  less  than 
they  have  done.  The  things  which  they  prac 
tise  are  said  not  yet  to  be  known.  Here  is  one 
fishing  for  pickerel  with  grown  perch  for  bait. 
You  look  into  his  pail  with  wonder  as  into  a 
summer  pond,  as  if  he  kept  summer  locked  up 
at  home,  or  knew  where  she  had  retreated. 
How,  pray,  did  he  get  these  in  mid-winter  ?  Oh, 
he  got  worms  out  of  rotten  logs  since  the  ground 
froze,  and  so  he  caught  them.  His  life  itself 
passes  deeper  in  Nature  than  the  studies  of  the 
naturalist  penetrate;  himself  a  subject  for  the 
naturalist.  The  latter  raises  the  moss  and  bark 
gently  with  his  knife  in  search  of  insects;  the 
former  lays  open  logs  to  their  core  with  his  axe, 
and  moss  and  bark  fly  far  and  wide.  He  gets 
his  living  by  barking  trees.  Such  a  man  has 
some  right  to  fish,  and  I  love  to  see  Nature  car 
ried  out  in  him.  The  perch  swallows  the  grub- 
worm,  the  pickerel  swallows  the  perch,  and  the 
fisherman  swallows  the  pickerel;  and  so  all  the 
chinks  in  the  scale  of  being  are  filled. 

When  I   strolled  around  the  pond  in  misty 
weather  I  was  sometimes  amused  by  the  primi- 

THE  POND   IN   WINTER         377 

tive  mode  which  some  ruder  fisherman  had 
adopted.  He  would  perhaps  have  placed  alder 
branches  over  the  narrow  holes  in  the  ice,  which 
were  four  or  five  rods  apart  and  an  equal  dis 
tance  from  the  shore,  and  having  fastened  the 
end  of  the  line  to  a  stick  to  prevent  its  being 
.pulled  through,  have  passed  the  slack  line  over 
a  twig  of  the  alder,  a  foot  or  more  above  the  ice, 
and  tied  a  dry  oak  leaf  to  it,  which,  being  pulled 
down,  would  show  when  he  had  a  bite.  These 
alders  loomed  through  the  mist  at  regular  in 
tervals  as  you  walked  halfway  round  the  pond. 
Ah,  the  pickerel  of  Walden  !  when  I  see  them 
lying  on  the  ice,  or  in  the  well  which  the  fisher 
man  cuts  in  the  ice,  making  a  little  hole  to  ad 
mit  the  water,  I  am  always  surprised  by  their 
rare  beauty,  as  if  they  were  fabulous  fishes,  they 
are  so  foreign  to  the  streets,  even  to  the  woods, 
foreign  as  Arabia  to  our  Concord  life.  They 
possess  a  quite  dazzling  and  transcendent  beauty 
which  separates  them  by  a  wide  interval  from 
the  cadaverous  cod  and  haddock  whose  fame  is 
trumpeted  in  our  streets.  They  are  not  green 
like  the  pines,  nor  gray  like  the  stones,  nor  blue 
like  the  sky;  but  they  have,  to  my  eyes,  if  pos 
sible,  yet  rarer  colors,  like  flowers  and  precious 
stones,  as  if  they  were  the  pearls,  the  animalized 
nuclei  or  crystals  of  the  Walden  water.  They, 
of  course,  are  Walden  all  over  and  all  through; 
are  themselves  small  Waldens  in  the  animal 

378  WALDEN 

kingdom,  Waldenses.  It  is  surprising  that  they 
are  caught  here,  —  that  in  this  deep  and  capa 
cious  spring,  far  beneath  the  rattling  teams  and 
chaises  and  tinkling  sleighs  that  travel  the  Wai- 
den  road,  this  great  gold  and  emerald  fish  swims. 
I  never  chanced  to  see  its  kind  in  any  market; 
it  would  be  the  cynosure  of  all  eyes  there.  Eas 
ily,  with  a  few  convulsive  quirks,  they  give  up 
their  watery  ghosts,  like  a  mortal  translated  be 
fore  his  time  to  the  thin  air  of  heaven. 

As  I  was  desirous  to  recover  the  long-lost 
bottom  of  Walden  Pond,  I  surveyed  it  carefully, 
before  the  ice  broke  up,  early  in  '46,  with  com 
pass  and  chain  and  sounding  line.  There  have 
been  many  stories  told  about  the  bottom,  or 
rather  no  bottom,  of  this  pond,  which  certainly 
had  no  foundation  for  themselves.  It  is  re 
markable  how  long  men  will  believe  in  the 
bottomlessness  of  a  pond  without  taking  the 
trouble  to  sound  it.  I  have  visited  two  such 
Bottomless  Ponds  in  one  walk  in  this  neighbor 
hood.  Many  have  believed  that  Walden  reached 
quite  through  to  the  other  side  of  the  globe. 
Some  who  have  lain  flat  on  the  ice  for  a  long 
time,  looking  down  through  the  illusive  medium, 
perchance  with  watery  eyes  into  the  bargain, 
and  driven  to  hasty  conclusions  by  the  fear  of 
catching  cold  in  their  breasts,  have  seen  vast 
holes  "into  which  a  load  of  hay  might  be  driven," 

THE   POND   IN   WINTER         379 

if  there  were  anybody  to  drive  it,  the  undoubted 
source  of  the  Styx  and  entrance  to  the  Infernal 
Regions  from  these  parts.  Others  have  gone 
down  from  the  village  with  a  "fifty-six"  and  a 
wagon  load  of  inch  rope,  but  yet  have  failed 
to  find  any  bottom;  for  while  the  "fifty-six" 
was  resting  by  the  way,  they  were  paying  out 
the  rope  in  the  vain  attempt  to  fathom  their 
truly  immeasurable  capacity  for  marvellousness. 
But  I  can  assure  my  readers  that  Walden  has 
a  reasonably  tight  bottom  at  a  not  unreasonable, 
though  at  an  unusual,  depth.  I  fathomed  it 
easily  with  a  cod-line  and  a  stone  weighing 
about  a  pound  and  a  half,  and  could  tell  accu 
rately  when  the  stone  left  the  bottom,  by  having 
to  pull  so  much  harder  before  the  water  got 
underneath  to  help  me.  The  greatest  depth 
was  exactly  one  hundred  and  two  feet ;  to  which 
may  be  added  the  five  feet  which  it  has  risen 
since,  making  one  hundred  and  seven.  This  is 
a  remarkable  depth  for  so  small  an  area;  yet 
not  an  inch  of  it  can  be  spared  by  the  imagina 
tion.  What  if  all  ponds  were  shallow?  Would 
it  not  react  on  the  minds  of  men  ?  I  am  thank 
ful  that  this  pond  was  made  deep  and  pure  for 
a  symbol.  While  men  believe  in  the  infinite 
some  ponds  will  be  thought  to  be  bottomless. 

A  factory  owner,  hearing  what  depth  I  had 
found,  thought  that  it  could  not  be  true,  for, 
judging  from  his  acquaintance  with  dams,  sand 

380  WALDEN 

would  not  lie  at  so  steep  an  angle.  But  the 
deepest  ponds  are  not  so  deep  in  proportion  to 
their  area  as  most  suppose,  and,  if  drained, 
would  not  leave  very  remarkable  valleys.  They 
are  not  like  cups  between  the  hills ;  for  this  one, 
which  is  so  unusually  deep  for  its  area,  appears 
in  a  vertical  section  through  its  centre  not 
deeper  than  a  shallow  plate.  Most  ponds,  emp 
tied,  would  leave  a  meadow  no  more  hollow 
than  we  frequently  see.  William  Gilpin,  who 
is  so  admirable  in  all  that  relates  to  landscapes, 
and  usually  so  correct,  standing  at  the  head  of 
Loch  Fyne,  in  Scotland,  which  he  describes  as 
"a  bay  of  salt  water,  sixty  or  seventy  fathoms 
deep,  four  miles  in  breadth,"  and  about  fifty 
miles  long,  surrounded  by  mountains,  observes, 
"If  we  could  have  seen  it  immediately  after  the 
diluvian  crash,  or  whatever  convulsion  of  Nature 
occasioned  it,  before  the  waters  gushed  in,  what 
a  horrid  chasm  it  must  have  appeared ! 

"So  high  as  heaved  the  tumid  hills,  so  low 
Down  sunk  a  hollow  bottom,  broad,  and  deep, 
Capacious  bed  of  waters  — " 

But  if,  using  the  shortest  diameter  of  Loch 
Fyne,  we  apply  these  proportions  to  Walden, 
which,  as  we  have  seen,  appears  already  in  a 
vertical  section  only  like  a  shallow  plate,  it  will 
appear  four  times  as  shallow.  So  much  for  the 
increased  horrors  of  the  chasm  of  Loch  Fyne 
when  emptied.  No  doubt  many  a  smiling 

Walden  Pond  on  a  winter  morning 

THE  POND   IN   WINTER         381 

valley  with  its  stretching  cornfields  occupies 
exactly  such  a  "horrid  chasm,"  from  which  the 
waters  have  receded,  though  it  requires  the  in 
sight  and  the  far  sight  of  the  geologist  to  con 
vince  the  unsuspecting  inhabitants  of  this  fact. 
Often  an  inquisitive  eye  may  detect  the  shores 
of  a  primitive  lake  in  the  low  horizon  hills,  and 
no  subsequent  elevation  of  the  plain  have  been 
necessary  to  conceal  their  history.  But  it  is 
easiest,  as  they  who  work  on  the  highways 
know,  to  find  the  hollows  by  the  puddles  after  a 
shower.  The  amount  of  it  is,  the  imagination, 
give  it  the  least  license,  dives  deeper  and  soars 
higher  than  Nature  goes.  So,  probably,  the 
depth  of  the  ocean  will  be  found  to  be  very  in 
considerable  compared  with  its  breadth. 

As  I  sounded  through  the  ice  I  could  deter 
mine  the  shape  of  the  bottom  with  greater  ac 
curacy  than  is  possible  in  surveying  harbors 
which  do  not  freeze  over,  and  I  was  surprised 
at  its  general  regularity.  In  the  deepest  part 
there  are  several  acres  more  level  than  almost 
any  field  which  is  exposed  to  the  sun,  wind,  and 
plough.  In  one  instance,  on  a  line  arbitrarily 
chosen,  the  depth  did  not  vary  more  than  one 
foot  in  thirty  rods;  and  generally,  near  the 
middle,  I  could  calculate  the  variation  for  each 
one  hundred  feet  in  any  direction  beforehand 
within  three  or  four  inches.  Some  are  accus 
tomed  to  speak  of  deep  and  dangerous  holes 

382  WALDEN 

even  in  quiet  sandy  ponds  like  this,  but  the  effect 
of  water  under  these  circumstances  is  to  level 
all  inequalities.  The  regularity  of  the  bottom 
and  its  conformity  to  the  shores  and  the  range 
of  the  neighboring  hills  were  so  perfect  that  a 
distant  promontory  betrayed  itself  in  the  sound 
ings  quite  across  the  pond,  and  its  direction 
could  be  determined  by  observing  the  opposite 
shore.  Cape  becomes  bar,  and  plain  shoal,  and 
valley  and  gorge  deep  water  and  channel. 

When  I  had  mapped  the  pond  by  the  scale  of 
ten  rods  to  an  inch,  and  put  down  the  soundings, 
more  than  a  hundred  in  all,  I  observed  this  re 
markable  coincidence.  Having  noticed  that  the 
number  indicating  the  greatest  depth  was  ap 
parently  in  the  centre  of  the  map,  I  laid  a  rule 
on  the  map  lengthwise,  and  then  breadthwise, 
and  found,  to  my  surprise,  that  the  line  of  great 
est  length  intersected  the  line  of  greatest  breadth 
exactly  at  the  point  of  greatest  depth,  notwith 
standing  that  the  middle  is  so  nearly  level,  the 
outline  of  the  pond  far  from  regular,  and  the 
extreme  length  and  breadth  were  got  by  measur 
ing  into  the  coves;  and  I  said  to  myself,  Who 
knows  but  this  hint  would  conduct  to  the  deepest 
part  of  the  ocean  as  well  as  of  a  pond  or  puddle  ? 
Is  not  this  the  rule  also  for  the  height  of  moun 
tains,  regarded  as  the  opposite  of  valleys  ?  We 
know  that  a  hill  is  not  highest  at  its  narrowest 

THE   POND   IN   WINTER          383 

Of  five  coves,  three,  or  all  which  had  been 
sounded,  were  observed  to  have  a  bar  quite 
across  their  mouths  and  deeper  water  within,  so 
that  the  bay  tended  to  be  an  expansion  of  water 
within  the  land  not  only  horizontally  but  ver 
tically,  and  to  form  a  basin  or  independent 
pond,  the  direction  of  the  two  capes  showing 
the  course  of  the  bar.  Every  harbor  on  the  sea- 
coast,  also,  has  its  bar  at  its  entrance.  In  pro 
portion  as  the  mouth  of  the  cove  was  wider  com 
pared  with  its  length,  the  water  over  the  bar 
was  deeper  compared  with  that  in  the  basin. 
Given,  then,  the  length  and  breadth  of  the  cove, 
and  the  character  of  the  surrounding  shore, 
and  you  have  almost  elements  enough  to  make 
out  a  formula  for  all  cases. 

In  order  to  see  how  nearly  I  could  guess,  with 
this  experience,  at  the  deepest  point  in  a  pond, 
by  observing  the  outlines  of  its  surface  and  the 
character  of  its  shores  alone,  I  made  a  plan  of 
White  Pond,  which  contains  about  forty-one 
acres,  and,  like  this,  has  no  island  in  it,  nor  any 
visible  inlet  or  outlet ;  and  as  the  line  of  greatest 
breadth  fell  very  near  the  line  of  least  breadth, 
where  two  opposite  capes  approached  each 
other  and  two  opposite  bays  receded,  I  ventured 
to  mark  a  point  a  short  distance  from  the  latter 
line,  but  still  on  the  line  of  greatest  length,  as 
the  deepest.  The  deepest  part  was  found  to  be 
within  one  hundred  feet  of  this,  still  farther  in 

384  WALDEN 

the  direction  to  which  I  had  inclined,  and  was 
only  one  foot  deeper,  namely  sixty  feet.  Of 
course,  a  stream  running  through,  or  an  island 
in  the  pond,  would  make  the  problem  much 
more  complicated. 

If  we  knew  all  the  laws  of  Nature,  we  should 
need  only  one  fact,  or  the  description  of  one 
actual  phenomenon,  to  infer  all  the  particular 
results  at  that  point.  Now  we  know  only  a  few 
laws,  and  our  result  is  vitiated,  not,  of  course, 
by  any  confusion  or  irregularity  in  Nature,  but 
by  our  ignorance  of  essential  elements  in  the 
calculation.  Our  notions  of  law  and  harmony  are 
commonly  confined  to  those  instances  which  we 
detect;  but  the  harmony  which  results  from  a 
far  greater  number  of  seemingly  conflicting,  but 
really  concurring,  laws,  which  we  have  not  de 
tected,  is  still  more  wonderful.  The  particular 
laws  are  as  our  points  of  view,  as,  to  the  travel 
ler,  a  mountain  outline  varies  with  every  step, 
and  it  has  an  infinite  number  of  profiles,  though 
absolutely  but  one  form.  Even  when  cleft  or 
bored  through  it  is  not  comprehended  in  its 

What  I  have  observed  of  the  pond  is  no  less 
true  in  ethics.  It  is  the  law  of  average.  Such  a 
rule  of  the  two  diameters  not  only  guides  us 
toward  the  sun  in  the  system  and  the  heart  in 
man;  but  draw  lines  through  the  length  and 
breadth  of  the  aggregate  of  a  man's  particular 

THE  POND   IN   WINTER          385 

daily  behaviors  and  waves  of  life  into  his  coves 
and  inlets,  and  where  they  intersect  will  be  the 
height  or  depth  of  his  character.  Perhaps  we 
need  only  to  know  how  his  shores  trend  and  his 
adjacent  country  or  circumstances,  to  infer  his 
depth  and  concealed  bottom.  If  he  is  surrounded 
by  mountainous  circumstances,  an  Achillean 
shore,  whose  peaks  overshadow  and  are  reflected 
in  his  bosom,  they  suggest  a  corresponding 
depth  in  him.  But  a  low  and  smooth  shore  proves 
him  shallow  on  that  side.  In  our  bodies,  a  bold 
projecting  brow  falls  off  to  and  indicates  a  cor 
responding  depth  of  thought.  Also  there  is  a  bar 
across  the  entrance  of  our  every  cove,  or  partic 
ular  inclination ;  each  is  our  harbor  for  a  season, 
in  which  we  are  detained  and  partially  land 
locked.  These  inclinations  are  not  whimsical 
usually,  but  their  form,  size,  and  direction  are 
determined  by  the  promontories  of  the  shore, 
the  ancient  axes  of  elevation.  When  this  bar  is 
gradually  increased  by  storms,  tides,  or  currents, 
or  there  is  a  subsidence  of  the  waters,  so  that  it 
reaches  to  the  surface,  that  which  was  at  first 
but  an  inclination  in  the  shore  in  which  a  thought 
was  harbored  becomes  an  individual  lake,  cut 
off  from  the  ocean,  wherein  the  thought  secures 
its  own  conditions,  changes,  perhaps,  from  salt 
to  fresh,  becomes  a  sweet  sea,  dead  sea,  or  a 
marsh.  At  the  advent  of  each  individual  into 
this  life,  may  we  not  suppose  that  such  a  bar  has 


386  WALDEN 

risen  to  the  surface  somewhere?  It  is  true,  we 
are  such  poor  navigators  that  our  thoughts,  for 
the  most  part,  stand  off  and  on  upon  a  harbor- 
less  coast,  are  conversant  only  with  the  bights  of 
the  bays  of  poesy,  or  steer  for  the  public  ports  of 
entry,  and  go  into  the  dry  docks  of  science, 
where  they  merely  refit  for  this  world,  and  no 
natural  currents  concur  to  individualize  them. 

As  for  the  inlet  or  outlet  of  Walden,  I  have  not 
discovered  any  but  rain  and  snow  and  evapora 
tion,  though  perhaps,  with  a  thermometer  and  a 
line,  such  places  may  be  found,  for  where  the 
water  flows  into  the  pond  it  will  be  probably  be 
coldest  in  summer  and  warmest  in  winter. 
When  the  ice-men  were  at  work  here  in  '46-7, 
the  cakes  sent  to  the  shore  were  one  day  rejected 
by  those  who  were  stacking  them  up  there,  not 
being  thick  enough  to  lie  side  by  side  with  the 
rest;  and  the  cutters  thus  discovered  that  the 
ice  over  a  small  space  was  two  or  three  inches 
thinner  than  elsewhere,  which  made  them  think 
that  there  was  an  inlet  there.  They  also  showed 
me  in  another  place  what  they  thought  was  a 
"leach  hole,"  through  which  the  pond  leaked  out 
under  a  hill  into  a  neighboring  meadow,  pushing 
me  out  on  a  cake  of  ice  to  see  it.  It  was  a  small 
cavity  under  ten  feet  of  water;  but  I  think  that 
I  can  warrant  the  pond  not  to  need  soldering  till 
they  find  a  worse  leak  than  that.  One  has  sug 
gested  that  if  such  a  "leach  hole"  should  be 

THE  POND   IN   WINTER         387 

found,  its  connection  with  the  meadow,  if  any 
existed,  might  be  proved  by  conveying  some 
colored  powder  or  sawdust  to  the  mouth  of  the 
hole,  and  then  putting  a  strainer  over  the  spring 
in  the  meadow,  which  would  catch  some  of  the 
particles  carried  through  by  the  current. 

While  I  was  surveying,  the  ice,  which  was  six 
teen  inches  thick,  undulated  under  a  slight  wind 
like  water.  It  is  well  known  that  a  level  cannot 
be  used  on  ice.  At  one  rod  from  the  shore  its 
greatest  fluctuation,  when  observed  by  means  of 
a  level  on  land  directed  toward  a  graduated  staff 
on  the  ice,  was  three  quarters  of  an  inch,  though 
the  ice  appeared  firmly  attached  to  the  shore. 
It  was  probably  greater  in  the  middle.  Who 
knows  but  if  our  instruments  were  delicate  enough 
we  might  detect  an  undulation  in  the  crust  of  the 
earth?  When  two  legs  of  my  level  were  on  the 
shore  and  the  third  on  the  ice,  and  the  sights 
were  directed  over  the  latter,  a  rise  or  fail  of 
the  ice  of  an  almost  infinitesimal  amount  made 
a  difference  of  several  feet  on  a  tree  across  the 
pond.  When  I  began  to  cut  holes  for  sounding, 
there  were  three  or  four  inches  of  water  on  the 
ice  under  a  deep  snow  which  had  sunk  it  thus 
far;  but  the  water  began  immediately  to  run 
into  these  holes,  and  continued  to  run  for  two 
days  in  deep  streams,  which  wore  away  the  ice 
on  every  side,  and  contributed  essentially,  if  not 
mainly,  to  dry  the  surface  of  the  pond;  for,  as 

388  WALDEN 

the  water  ran  in,  it  raised  and  floated  the  ice. 
This  was  somewhat  like  cutting  a  hole  in  the 
bottom  of  a  ship  to  let  the  water  out.  When  such 
holes  freeze,  and  a  rain  succeeds,  and  finally  a 
new  freezing  forms  a  fresh  smooth  ice  over  all, 
it  is  beautifully  mottled  internally  by  dark  fig 
ures,  shaped  somewhat  like  a  spider's  web, 
what  you  may  call  ice  rosettes,  produced  by  the 
channels  worn  by  the  water  flowing  from  all 
sides  to  a  centre.  Sometimes,  also,  when  the 
ice  was  covered  with  shallow  puddles,  I  saw  a 
double  shadow  of  myself,  one  standing  on  the 
head  of  the  other,  one  on  the  ice,  the  other  on  the 
trees  or  hill  side. 

While  yet  it  is  cold  January,  and  snow  and  ice 
are  thick  and  solid,  the  prudent  landlord  comes 
from  the  village  to  get  ice  to  cool  his  summer 
drink;  impressively,  even  pathetically  wise,  to 
foresee  the  heat  and  thirst  of  July  now  in  Janu 
ary,  —  wearing  a  thick  coat  and  mittens  !  when 
so  many  things  are  not  provided  for.  It  may  be 
that  he  lays  up  no  treasures  in  this  world  which 
will  cool  his  summer  drink  in  the  next.  He  cuts 
and  saws  the  solid  pond,  unroofs  the  house  of 
fishes,  and  carts  off  their  very  element  and  air, 
held  fast  by  chains  and  stakes  like  corded  wood, 
through  the  favoring  winter  air,  to  wintry  cellars, 
to  underlie  the  summer  there.  It  looks  like  solid 
ified  azure,  as,  far  off,  it  is  drawn  through  the 

THE  POND   IN  WINTER          389 

streets.  These  ice-cutters  are  a  merry  race,  full 
of  jest  and  sport,  and  when  I  went  among  them 
they  were  wont  to  invite  me  to  saw  pit-fashion 
with  them,  I  standing  underneath. 

In  the  winter  of  '46-7  there  came  a  hundred 
men  of  Hyperborean  extraction  swoop  down  on 
to  our  pond  one  morning,  with  many  car-loads  of 
ungainly-looking  farming  tools,  sleds,  ploughs, 
drill-barrows,  turf-knives,  spades,  saws,  rakes, 
and  each  man  was  armed  with  a  double-pointed 
pike-staff,  such  as  is  not  described  in  the  New 
England  Farmer  or  the  Cultivator.  I  did  not 
know  whether  they  had  come  to  sow  a  crop  of 
winter  rye,  or  some  other  kind  of  grain  recently 
introduced  from  Iceland.  As  I  saw  no  manure, 
I  judged  that  they  meant  to  skim  the  land,  as  I 
had  done,  thinking  the  soil  was  deep  and  had 
lain  fallow  long  enough.  They  said  that  a  gentle 
man  farmer,  who  was  behind  the  scenes,  wanted 
to  double  his  money,  which,  as  I  understood, 
amounted  to  half  a  million  already ;  but,  in  order 
to  cover  each  one  of  his  dollars  with  another,  he 
took  off  the  only  coat,  ay,  the  skin  itself,  of 
Walden  Pond  in  the  midst  of  a  hard  winter. 
They  went  to  work  at  once,  ploughing,  harrow 
ing,  rolling,  furrowing,  in  admirable  order,  as 
if  they  were  bent  on  making  this  a  model  farm ; 
but  when  I  wTas  looking  sharp  to  see  what  kind  of 
seed  they  dropped  into  the  furrow,  a  gang  of 
fellows  by  my  side  suddenly  began  to  hook  up  the 

390  WALDEN 

virgin  mould  itself,  with  a  peculiar  jerk,  clean 
down  to  the  sand,  or  rather  the  water,  —  for  it 
was  a  very  springy  soil,  —  indeed,  all  the  terra 
firma  there  was,  —  and  haul  it  away  on  sleds, 
and  then  I  guessed  that  they  must  be  cutting 
peat  in  a  bog.  So  they  came  and  went  every  day, 
with  a  peculiar  shriek  from  the  locomotive,  from 
and  to  some  point  of  the  polar  regions,  as  it 
seemed  to  me,  like  a  flock  of  arctic  snow-birds. 
But  sometimes  Squaw  Walden  had  her  revenge, 
and  a  hired  man,  walking  behind  his  team, 
slipped  through  a  crack  in  the  ground  down 
toward  Tartarus,  and  he  who  was  so  brave  before 
suddenly  became  but  the  ninth  part  of  a  man, 
almost  gave  up  his  animal  heat,  and  was  glad  to 
take  refuge  in  my  house,  and  acknowledged  that 
there  was  some  virtue  in  a  stove;  or  sometimes 
the  frozen  soil  took  a  piece  of  steel  out  of  a  plough 
share,  or  a  plough  got  set  in  the  furrow  and  had 
to  be  cut  out. 

To  speak  literally,  a  hundred  Irishmen,  with 
Yankee  overseers,  came  from  Cambridge  every 
day  to  get  out  the  ice.  They  divided  it  into 
cakes  by  methods  too  well  known  to  require 
description,  and  these,  being  sledded  to  the 
shore,  were  rapidly  hauled  off  on  to  an  ice  plat 
form,  and  raised  by  grappling  irons  and  block 
and  tackle,  worked  by  horses,  on  to  a  stack,  as 
surely  as  so  many  barrels  of  flour,  and  there 
placed  evenly  side  by  side,  and  row  upon  row, 

THE  POND   IN   WINTER          391 

as  if  they  formed  the  solid  base  of  an  obelisk 
designed  to  pierce  the  clouds.  They  told  me 
that  in  a  good  day  they  could  get  out  a  thousand 
tons,  which  was  the  yield  of  about  one  acre. 
Deep  ruts  and  "cradle  holes"  were  worn  in  the 
ice,  as  on  terra  firma,  by  the  passage  of  the  sleds 
over  the  same  track,  and  the  horses  invariably 
ate  their  oats  out  of  cakes  of  ice  hollowed  out 
like  buckets.  They  stacked  up  the  cakes  thus 
in  the  open  air  in  a  pile  thirty-five  feet  high  on 
one  side  and  six  or  seven  rods  square,  putting 
hay  between  the  outside  layers  to  exclude  the 
air;  for  when  the  wind,  though  never  so  cold, 
finds  a  passage  through,  it  will  wear  large  cavi 
ties,  leaving  slight  supports  or  studs  only  here 
and  there,  and  finally  topple  it  down.  At  first  it 
looked  like  a  vast  blue  fort  or  Valhalla;  but 
when  they  began  to  tuck  the  coarse  meadow  hay 
into  the  crevices,  and  this  became  covered  with 
rime  and  icicles,  it  looked  like  a  venerable  moss- 
grown  and  hoary  ruin,  built  of  azure-tinted 
marble,  the  abode  of  Winter,  that  old  man  we 
see  in  the  almanac,  —  his  shanty,  as  if  he  had 
a  design  to  estiva te  with  us.  They  calculated 
that  not  twenty-five  per  cent  of  this  would  reach 
its  destination,  and  that  two  or  three  per  cent 
would  be  wasted  in  the  cars.  However,  a  still 
greater  part  of  this  heap  had  a  different  destiny 
from  what  intended;  for,  either  because  the  ice 
was  found  not  to  keep  so  well  as  was  expected, 

392  WALDEN 

containing  more  air  than  usual,  or  for  some 
other  reason,  it  never  got  to  market.  This  heap, 
made  in  the  winter  of  '46-7  and  estimated  to 
contain  ten  thousand  tons,  was  finally  covered 
with  hay  and  boards ;  and  though  it  was  unroofed 
the  following  July,  and  a  part  of  it  carried  off,  the 
rest  remaining  exposed  to  the  sun,  it  stood  over 
that  summer  and  the  next  winter,  and  was  not 
quite  melted  till  September,  1848.  Thus  the 
pond  recovered  the  greater  part. 

Like  the  water,  the  Walden  ice,  seen  near  at 
hand,  has  a  green  tint,  but  at  a  distance  is  beau 
tifully  blue,  and  you  can  easily  tell  it  from  the 
white  ice  of  the  river,  or  the  merely  greenish  ice 
of  some  ponds,  a  quarter  of  a  mile  off.  Sometimes 
one  of  those  great  cakes  slips  from  the  ice-man's 
sled  into  the  village  street,  and  lies  there  for  a 
week  like  a  great  emerald,  an  object  of  interest 
to  all  passers.  I  have  noticed  that  a  portion  of 
Walden  which  in  the  state  of  water  was  green 
will  often,  when  frozen,  appear  from  the  same 
point  of  view  blue.  So  the  hollows  about  this 
pond  will,  sometimes,  in  the  winter,  be  filled 
with  a  greenish  water  somewhat  like  its  own,  but 
the  next  day  will  have  frozen  blue.  Perhaps  the 
blue  color  of  water  and  ice  is  due  to  the  light  and 
air  they  contain,  and  the  most  transparent  is  the 
bluest.  Ice  is  an  interesting  subject  for  con 
templation.  They  told  me  that  they  had  some 
in  the  ice-houses  at  Fresh  Pond  five  years  old 

Among  the  pines  bordering  the  pond 

THE  POND   IN   WINTER         393 

which  was  as  good  as  ever.  Why  is  it  that  a 
bucket  of  water  soon  becomes  putrid,  but  frozen 
remains  sweet  forever  ?  It  is  commonly  said  that 
this  is  the  difference  between  the  affections  and 
the  intellect. 

Thus  for  sixteen  days  I  saw  from  my  window 
a  hundred  men  at  work  like  busy  husbandmen, 
with  teams  and  horses  and  apparently  all  the  im 
plements  of  farming,  such  a  picture  as  we  see  on 
the  first  page  of  the  almanac;  and  as  often  as  I 
looked  out  I  was  reminded  of  the  fable  of  the 
lark  and  the  reapers,  or  the  parable  of  the  sower, 
and  the  like;  and  now  they  are  all  gone,  and  in 
thirty  days  more,  probably,  I  shall  look  from 
the  same  window  on  the  pure  sea-green  Walden 
water  there,  reflecting  the  clouds  and  the  trees, 
and  sending  up  its  evaporations  in  solitude,  and 
no  traces  will  appear  that  a  man  has  ever  stood 
there.  Perhaps  I  shall  hear  a  solitary  loon  laugh 
as  he  dives  and  plumes  himself,  or  shall  see  a 
lonely  fisher  in  his  boat,  like  a  floating  leaf,  be 
holding  his  form  reflected  in  the  waves,  where 
lately  a  hundred  men  securely  labored. 

Thus  it  appears  that  the  sweltering  inhabi 
tants  of  Charleston  and  New  Orleans,  of  Ma 
dras  and  Bombay  and  Calcutta,  drink  at  my 
well.  In  the  morning  I  bathe  my  intellect  in  the 
stupendous  and  cosmogonal  philosophy  of  the 
Bhagvat  Geeta,  since  whose  composition  years 
of  the  gods  have  elapsed,  and  in  comparison  with 

394  WALDEN 

which  our  modern  world  and  its  literature  seem 
puny  and  trivial ;  and  I  doubt  if  that  philosophy 
is  not  to  be  referred  to  a  previous  state  of  ex 
istence,  so  remote  is  its  sublimity  from  our  con 
ceptions.  I  lay  down  the  book  and  go  to  my 
well  for  water,  and  lo !  there  I  meet  the  servant 
of  the  Brahmin,  priest  of  Brahma  and  Vishnu  and 
Indra,  who  still  sits  in  his  temple  on  the  Ganges 
reading  the  Vedas,  or  dwells  at  the  root  of  a  tree 
with  his  crust  and  water  jug.  I  meet  his  servant 
come  to  draw  water  for  his  master,  and  our 
buckets  as  it  were  grate  together  in  the  same 
well.  The  pure  Walden  water  is  mingled  with 
the  sacred  water  of  the  Ganges.  With  favoring 
winds  it  is  wafted  past  the  site  of  the  fabulous 
islands  of  Atlantis  and  the  Hesperides,  makes 
the  periplus  of  Hanno,  and,  floating  by  Ternate 
and  Tidore  and  the  mouth  of  the  Persian  Gulf, 
melts  in  the  tropic  gales  of  the  Indian  seas,  and  is 
landed  in  ports  of  which  Alexander  only  heard 
the  names. 



THE  opening  of  large  tracts  by  the  ice- 
cutters  commonly  causes  a  pond  to  break 
up  earlier;  for  the  water,  agitated  by  the 
wind,  even  in  cold  weather,  wears  away  the  sur 
rounding  ice.  But  such  was  not  the  effect  on 
Walden  that  year,  for  she  had  soon  got  a  thick 
new  garment  to  take  the  place  of  the  old.  This 
pond  never  breaks  up  so  soon  as  the  others  in 
this  neighborhood,  on  account  both  of  its  greater 
depth  and  its  having  no  stream  passing  through 
it  to  melt  or  wear  away  the  ice.  I  never  knew  it 
to  open  in  the  course  of  a  winter,  not  excepting 
that  of  '52-3,  which  gave  the  ponds  so  severe  a 
trial.  It  commonly  opens  about  the  first  of  April, 
a  week  or  ten  days  later  than  Flint's  Pond  and 
Fair-Haven,  beginning  to  melt  on  the  north  side 
and  in  the  shallower  parts  where  it  began  to 
freeze.  It  indicates  better  than  any  water  here 
abouts  the  absolute  progress  of  the  season,  being 
least  affected  by  transient  changes  of  tempera 
ture.  A  severe  cold  of  a  few  days'  duration  in 
March  may  very  much  retard  the  opening  of  the 
former  ponds,  while  the  temperature  of  Walden 

396  WALDEN 

increases  almost  uninterruptedly.  A  thermome 
ter  thrust  into  the  middle  of  Walden  on  the  6th 
of  March,  1847,  stood  at  32°,  or  freezing  point; 
near  the  shore  at  33°;  in  the  middle  of  Flint's 
Pond,  the  same  day,  at  32  J°;  at  a  dozen  rods 
from  the  shore,  in  shallow  water,  under  ice  a  foot 
thick,  at  36°.  This  difference  of  three  and  a  half 
degrees  between  the  temperature  of  the  deep 
water  and  the  shallow  in  the  latter  pond,  and  the 
fact  that  a  great  proportion  of  it  is  comparatively 
shallow,  show  why  it  should  break  up  so  much 
sooner  than  Walden.  The  ice  in  the  shallowest 
part  was  at  this  time  several  inches  thinner  than 
in  the  middle.  In  mid- winter  the  middle  had 
been  the  warmest  and  the  ice  thinnest  there. 
So,  also,  every  one  who  has  waded  about  the 
shores  of  a  pond  in  summer  must  have  perceived 
how  much  warmer  the  water  is  close  to  the  shore, 
where  only  three  or  four  inches  deep,  than  a  little 
distance  out,  and  on  the  surface  where  it  is  deep, 
than  near  the  bottom.  In  spring  the  sun  not 
only  exerts  an  influence  through  the  increased 
temperature  of  the  air  and  earth,  but  its  heat 
passes  through  ice  a  foot  or  more  thick,  and  is 
reflected  from  the  bottom  in  shallow  water,  and 
so  also  warms  the  water  and  melts  the  under 
side  of  the  ice,  at  the  same  time  that  it  is  melting 
it  more  directly  above,  making  it  uneven,  and 
causing  the  air  bubbles  which  it  contains  to  ex 
tend  themselves  upward  and  downward  until  it 

SPRING  397 

is  completely  honeycombed,  and  at  last  disap 
pears  suddenly  in  a  single  spring  rain.  Ice  has  its 
grain  as  well  as  wood,  and  when  a  cake  begins  to 
rot  or  "comb,"  that  is,  assume  the  appearance  of 
honeycomb,  whatever  may  be  its  position,  the  air 
cells  are  at  right  angles  with  what  was  the  water 
surface.  Where  there  is  a  rock  or  a  log  rising 
near  to  the  surface  the  ice  over  it  is  much  thinner, 
and  is  frequently  quite  dissolved  by  this  reflected 
heat ;  and  I  have  been  told  that  in  the  experiment 
at  Cambridge  to  freeze  water  in  a  shallow  wooden 
pond,  though  the  cold  air  circulated  underneath, 
and  so  had  access  to  both  sides,  the  reflection  of 
the  sun  from  the  bottom  more  than  counter 
balanced  this  advantage.  When  a  warm  rain 
in  the  middle  of  the  winter  melts  off  the  snow- 
ice  from  Walden,  and  leaves  a  hard,  dark,  or 
transparent  ice  on  the  middle,  there  will  be  a 
strip  of  rotten  though  thicker  white  ice,  a  rod  or 
more  wide,  about  the  shores,  created  by  this  re 
flected  heat.  Also,  as  I  have  said,  the  bubbles 
themselves  within  the  ice  operate  as  burning- 
glasses  to  melt  the  ice  beneath. 

The  phenomena  of  the  year  take  place  every 
day  in  a  pond  on  a  small  scale.  Every  morn 
ing,  generally  speaking,  the  shallow  water  is 
being  warmed  more  rapidly  than  the  deep, 
though  it  may  not  be  made  so  warm  after  all, 
and  every  evening  it  is  being  cooled  more 
rapidly  until  the  morning.  The  day  is  an 

398  WALDEN 

epitome  of  the  year.  The  night  is  the  winter, 
the  morning  and  evening  are  the  spring  and  fall, 
and  the  noon  is  the  summer.  The  cracking 
and  booming  of  the  ice  indicate  a  change  of 
temperature.  One  pleasant  morning  after  a 
cold  night,  February  24th,  1850,  having  gone 
to  Flint's  Pond  to  spend  the  day,  I  noticed  with 
surprise  that  when  I  struck  the  ice  with  the 
head  of  my  axe,  it  resounded  like  a  gong  for 
many  rods  around,  or  as  if  I  had  struck  on  a 
tight  drumhead.  The  pond  began  to  boom 
about  an  hour  after  sunrise,  when  it  felt  the 
influence  of  the  sun's  rays  slanted  upon  it  from 
over  the  hills;  it  stretched  itself  and  yawned 
like  a  waking  man  with  a  gradually  increasing 
tumult,  which  was  kept  up  three  or  four  hours. 
It  look  a  short  siesta  at  noon,  and  boomed  once 
more  toward  night,  as  the  sun  was  withdrawing 
his  influence.  In  the  right  stage  of  the  weather 
a  pond  fires  its  evening  gun  with  great  regularity. 
But  in  the  middle  of  the  day,  being  full  of  cracks, 
and  the  air  also  being  less  elastic,  it  had  com 
pletely  lost  its  resonance,  and  probably  fishes 
and  muskrats  could  not  then  have  been  stunned 
by  a  blow  on  it.  The  fishermen  say  that  the 
"thundering  of  the  pond"  scares  the  fishes  and 
prevents  their  biting.  The  pond  does  not 
thunder  every  evening,  and  I  cannot  tell  surely 
when  to  expect  its  thundering;  but  though  I 
may  perceive  no  difference  in  the  weather,  it 

SPRING  399 

does.  Who  would  have  suspected  so  large  and 
cold  and  thick-skinned  a  thing  to  be  so  sensi 
tive  ?  Yet  it  has  its  law  to  which  it  thunders 
obedience  when  it  should  as  surely  as  the  buds 
expand  in  the  spring.  The  earth  is  all  alive 
and  covered  with  papilla.  The  largest  pond  is 
as  sensitive  to  atmospheric  changes  as  the  globule 
of  mercury  in  its  tube. 

One  attraction  in  coming  to  the  woods  to  live 
was  that  I  should  have  leisure  and  opportunity 
to  see  the  spring  come  in.  The  ice  in  the  pond 
at  length  begins  to  be  honeycombed,  and  I  can 
set  my  heel  in  it  as  I  walk.  Fogs  and  rains  and 
warmer  suns  are  gradually  melting  the  snow; 
the  days  have  grown  sensibly  longer;  and  I  see 
how  I  shall  get  through  the  winter  without  add 
ing  to  my  wood-pile,  for  large  fires  are  no  longer 
necessary.  I  am  on  the  alert  for  the  first  signs 
of  spring,  to  hear  the  chance  note  of  some  arriv 
ing  bird,  or  the  striped  squirrel's  chirp,  for  his 
stores  must  be  now  nearly  exhausted,  or  see  the 
woodchuck  venture  out  of  his  winter  quarters. 
On  the  13th  of  March,  after  I  had  heard  the 
bluebird,  song-sparrow,  and  red-wing,  the  ice 
was  still  nearly  a  foot  thick.  As  the  weather 
grew  warmer,  it  was  not  sensibly  worn  away  by 
the  water,  nor  broken  up  and  floated  off  as  in 
rivers,  but,  though  it  was  completely  melted 
for  half  a  rod  in  width  about  the  shore,  the 

400  WALDEN 

middle  was  merely  honeycombed  and  saturated 
with  water,  so  that  you  could  put  your  foot 
through  it  when  six  inches  thick;  but  by  the 
next  day  evening,  perhaps,  after  a  warm  rain 
followed  by  fog,  it  would  have  wholly  disap 
peared,  all  gone  off  with  the  fog,  spirited  away. 
One  year  I  went  across  the  middle  only  five 
days  before  it  disappeared  entirely.  In  1845 
Walden  was  first  completely  open  on  the  1st  of 
April;  in  '46,  the  25th  of  March;  in  '47,  the 
8th  of  April;  in  '51,  the  28th  of  March;  in  '52, 
the  18th  of  April;  in  '53,  the  23rd  of  March; 
in  '54,  about  the  7th  of  April. 

Every  incident  connected  with  the  breaking 
up  of  the  rivers  and  ponds  and  the  settling  of 
the  weather  is  particularly  interesting  to  us  who 
live  in  a  climate  of  so  great  extremes.  When 
the  warmer  days  come,  they  who  dwell  near 
the  river  hear  the  ice  crack  at  night  with  a 
startling  whoop  as  loud  as  artillery,  as  if  its  icy 
fetters  were  rent  from  end  to  end,  and  within 
a  few  days  see  it  rapidly  going  out.  So  the  alli 
gator  comes  out  of  the  mud  with  quakings  of 
the  earth.  One  old  man,  who  has  been  a  close 
observer  of  Nature,  and  seems  as  thoroughly 
wise  in  regard  to  all  her  operations  as  if  she 
had  been  put  upon  the  stocks  when  he  was  a  boy, 
and  he  had  helped  to  lay  her  keel,  —  who  has 
come  to  his  growth,  and  can  hardly  acquire 
more  of  natural  lore  if  he  should  live  to  the  age 

SPRING  401 

of  Methuselah,  —  told  me,  and  I  was  surprised 
to  hear  him  express  wonder  at  any  of  Nature's 
operations,  for  I  thought  that  there  were  no 
secrets  between  them,  that  one  spring  day  he 
took  his  gun  and  boat,  and  thought  that  he 
would  have  a  little  sport  with  the  ducks.  There 
was  ice  still  on  the  meadows,  but  it  was  all  gone 
out  of  the  river,  and  he  dropped  down  without 
obstruction  from  Sudbury,  where  he  lived,  to 
Fair-Haven  Pond,  which  he  found,  unexpect 
edly,  covered  for  the  most  part  with  a  firm  field 
of  ice.  It  was  a  warm  day,  and  he  was  sur 
prised  to  see  so  great  a  body  of  ice  remaining. 
Not  seeing  any  ducks,  he  hid  his  boat  on  the 
north  or  back  side  of  an  island  in  the  pond,  and 
then  concealed  himself  in  the  bushes  on  the 
south  side,  to  await  them.  The  ice  was  melted 
for  three  or  four  rods  from  the  shore,  and  there 
was  a  smooth  and  warm  sheet  of  water,  with  a 
muddy  bottom,  such  as  the  ducks  love,  within, 
and  he  thought  it  likely  that  some  would  be 
along  pretty  soon.  After  he  had  lain  still  there 
about  an  hour  he  heard  a  low  and  seemingly 
very  distant  sound,  but  singularly  grand  and 
impressive,  unlike  anything  he  had  ever  heard, 
gradually  swelling  and  increasing  as  if  it  would 
have  a  universal  and  memorable  ending,  a 
sullen  rush  and  roar,  which  seemed  to  him  all 
at  once  like  the  sound  of  a  vast  body  of  fowl 
coming  in  to  settle  there,  and,  seizing  his  gun, 

402  WALDEN 

he  started  up  in  haste  and  excited ;  but  he  found, 
to  his  surprise,  that  the  whole  body  of  the  ice 
had  started  while  he  lay  there,  and  drifted  in 
to  the  shore,  and  the  sound  he  had  heard  was 
made  by  its  edge  grating  on  the  shore,  —  at 
first  gently  nibbled  and  crumbled  off,  but  at 
length  heaving  up  and  scattering  its  wrecks 
along  the  island  to  a  considerable  height  before 
it  came  to  a  standstill. 

At  length  the  sun's  rays  have  attained  the 
right  angle,  and  warm  winds  blow  up  mist  and 
rain  and  melt  the  snow-banks,  and  the  sun  dis 
persing  the  mist  smiles  on  a  checkered  land 
scape  of  russet  and  white  smoking  with  incense, 
through  which  the  traveller  picks  his  way  from 
islet  to  islet,  cheered  by  the  music  of  a  thousand 
tinkling  rills  and  rivulets  whose  veins  are  filled 
with  the  blood  of  winter  which  they  are  bearing 

Few  phenomena  gave  me  more  delight  than 
to  observe  the  forms  which  thawing  sand  and 
clay  assume  in  flowing  down  the  sides  of  a  deep 
cut  on  the  railroad  through  which  I  passed  on 
my  way  to  the  village,  a  phenomenon  not  very 
common  on  so  large  a  scale,  though  the  number 
of  freshly  exposed  banks  of  the  right  material 
must  have  been  greatly  multiplied  since  rail 
roads  were  invented.  The  material  was  sand 
of  every  degree  of  fineness  and  of  various  rich 
colors,  commonly  mixed  with  a  little  clay.  When 

SPRING  403 

the  frost  comes  out  in  the  spring,  and  even  in  a 
thawing  day  in  the  winter,  the  sand  begins  to 
flow  down  the  slopes  like  lava,  sometimes  burst 
ing  out  through  the  snow  and  overflowing  it 
where  no  sand  was  to  be  seen  before.  Innum 
erable  little  streams  overlap  and  interlace  one 
with  another,  exhibiting  a  sort  of  hybrid  prod 
uct,  which  obeys  halfway  the  law  of  currents, 
and  halfway  that  of  vegetation.  As  it  flows 
it  takes  the  forms  of  sappy  leaves  or  vines,  mak 
ing  heaps  of  pulpy  sprays  a  foot  or  more  in 
depth,  and  resembling,  as  you  look  down  on 
them,  the  laciniated,  lobed,  and  imbricated 
thalluses  of  some  lichens;  or  you  are  reminded 
of  coral,  of  leopards'  paws  or  birds'  feet,  of 
brains  or  lungs  or  bowels,  and  excrements  of  all 
kinds.  It  is  a  truly  grotesque  vegetation,  whose 
forms  and  color  we  see  imitated  in  bronze,  a 
sort  of  architectural  foliage  more  ancient  and 
typical  than  acanthus,  chiccory,  ivy,  vine,  or 
any  vegetable  leaves;  destined  perhaps,  under 
some  circumstances,  to  become  a  puzzle  to 
future  geologists.  The  whole  cut  impressed  me 
as  if  it  were  a  cave  with  its  stalactites  laid  open 
to  the  light.  The  various  shades  of  the  sand  are 
singularly  rich  and  agreeable,  embracing  the 
different  iron  colors,  brown,  gray,  yellowish, 
and  reddish.  When  the  flowing  mass  reaches 
the  drain  at  the  foot  of  the  bank  it  spreads  out 
flatter  into  strands,  the  separate  streams  losing 

404  WALDEN 

their  semi-cylindrical  form  and  gradually  be 
coming  more  flat  and  broad,  running  together 
as  they  are  more  moist,  till  they  form  an  almost 
flat  sand,  still  variously  and  beautifully  shaded, 
but  in  which  you  can  trace  the  original  forms 
of  vegetation;  till  at  length,  in  the  water  itself, 
they  are  converted  into  banks,  like  those  formed 
off  the  mouths  of  rivers,  and  the  forms  of  vege 
tation  are  lost  in  the  ripple  marks  on  the  bottom. 
The  whole  bank,  which  is  from  twenty  to 
forty  feet  high,  is  sometimes  overlaid  with  a  mass 
of  this  kind  of  foliage,  or  sandy  rupture,  for  a 
quarter  of  a  mile  on  one  or  both  sides,  the  prod 
uce  of  one  spring  day.  What  makes  this  sand 
foliage  remarkable  is  its  springing  into  existence 
thus  suddenly.  When  I  see  on  the  one  side  the 
inert  bank,  —  for  the  sun  acts  on  one  side  first, 
-  and  on  the  other  this  luxuriant  foliage,  the 
creation  of  an  hour,  I  am  affected  as  if  in  a 
peculiar  sense  I  stood  in  the  laboratory  of  the 
Artist  who  made  the  world  and  me  —  had  come 
to  where  he  was  still  at  work,  sporting  on  this 
bank,  and  with  excess  of  energy  strewing  his 
fresh  designs  about.  I  feel  as  if  I  were  nearer 
to  the  vitals  of  the  globe,  for  this  sandy  over 
flow  is  something  such  a  foliaceous  mass  as  the 
vitals  of  the  animal  body.  You  find  thus  in  the 
very  sands  an  anticipation  of  the  vegetable  leaf. 
No  wonder  that  the  earth  expresses  itself  out 
wardly  in  leaves,  it  so  labors  with  the  idea  in- 

SPRING  405 

wardly.  The  atoms  have  already  learned  this 
law,  and  are  pregnant  by  it.  The  overhanging 
leaf  sees  here  its  prototype.  Internally,  whether 
in  the  globe  or  animal  body,  it  is  a  moist  thick 
lobe,  a  word  especially  applicable  to  the  liver 
and  lungs  and  the  leaves  of  fat  (Keifta),  labor, 
lapsus,  to  flow  or  slip  downward,  a  lapsing; 
Xo/3os,  globus,  lobe,  globe;  also  lap,  flap,  and 
many  other  words),  externally  a  dry  thin  leaf, 
even  as  the  /  and  v  are  a  pressed  and  dried  6. 
The  radicals  of  lobe  are  Ib,  the  soft  mass  of 
the  b  (single  lobed,  or  B,  double  lobed),  with  a 
liquid  /  behind  it  pressing  it  forward.  In  globe, 
gib,  the  guttural  g  adds  to  the  meaning  the  capac 
ity  of  the  throat.  The  feathers  and  wings  of 
birds  are  still  drier  and  thinner  leaves.  Thus, 
also,  you  pass  from  the  lumpish  grub  in  the 
earth  to  the  airy  and  fluttering  butterfly.  The 
very  globe  continually  transcends  and  trans 
lates  itself,  and  becomes  winged  in  its  orbit. 
Even  ice  begins  with  delicate  crystal  leaves,  as 
if  it  had  flowed  into  moulds  which  the  fronds 
of  water  plants  have  impressed  on  the  watery 
mirror.  The  whole  tree  itself  is  but  one  leaf, 
and  rivers  are  still  vaster  leaves  whose  pulp  is 
intervening  earth,  and  towns  and  cities  are  the 
ova  of  insects  in  their  axils. 

When  the  sun  withdraws  the  sand  ceases  to 
flow,  but  in  the  morning  the  streams  will  start 
once  more  and  branch  and  branch  again  into 

406  WALDEN 

a  myriad  of  others.  You  here  see  perchance 
how  blood  vessels  are  formed.  If  you  look  closely 
you  observe  that  first  there  pushes  forward  from 
the  thawing  mass  a  stream  of  softened  sand 
with  a  drop-like  point,  like  the  ball  of  the  finger, 
feeling  its  way  slowly  and  blindly  downward, 
until  at  last  with  more  heat  and  moisture,  as 
the  sun  gets  higher,  the  most  fluid  portion,  in 
its  effort  to  obey  the  law  to  which  the  most 
inert  also  yields,  separates  from  the  latter  and 
forms  for  itself  a  meandering  channel  or  artery 
within  that,  in  which  is  seen  a  little  silvery 
stream  glancing  like  lightning  from  one  stage 
of  pulpy  leaves  or  branches  to  another,  and  ever 
and  anon  swallowed  up  in  the  sand.  It  is  won 
derful  how  rapidly  yet  perfectly  the  sand  organizes 
itself  as  it  flows,  using  the  best  material  its  mass 
affords  to  form  the  sharp  edges  of  its  channel. 
Such  are  the  sources  of  rivers.  In  the  silicious 
matter  which  the  water  deposits  is  perhaps  the 
bony  system,  and  in  the  still  finer  soil  and  or 
ganic  matter  the  fleshy  fibre  or  cellular  tissue. 
What  is  man  but  a  mass  of  thawing  clay  ?  The 
ball  of  the  human  finger  is  but  a  drop  congealed. 
The  fingers  and  toes  flow  to  their  extent  from 
the  thawing  mass  of  the  body.  Who  knows 
what  the  human  body  would  expand  and  flow 
out  to  under  a  more  genial  heaven  ?  Is  not  the 
hand  a  spreading  palm  leaf  with  its  lobes  and 
veins  ?  The  ear  may  be  regarded,  fancifully,  as 

SPRING  407 

a  lichen,  umbilicaria,  on  the  side  of  the  head, 
with  its  lobe  or  drop.  The  lip  —  labium,  from 
labor  (?)  --laps  or  lapses  from  the  sides  of  the 
cavernous  mouth.  The  nose  is  a  manifest  con 
gealed  drop  or  stalactite.  The  chin  is  a  still 
larger  drop,  the  confluent  dripping  of  the  face. 
The  cheeks  are  a  slide  from  the  brows  into  the 
valley  of  the  face,  opposed  and  diffused  by  the 
cheek  bones.  Each  rounded  lobe  of  the  vege 
table  leaf,  too,  is  a  thick  and  now  loitering  drop, 
larger  or  smaller ;  the  lobes  are  the  fingers  of  the 
leaf;  and  as  many  lobes  as  it  has,  in  so  many 
directions  it  tends  to  flow,  and  more  heat  or 
other  genial  influences  would  have  caused  it 
to  flow  yet  farther. 

Thus  it  seemed  that  this  one  hill  side  illus 
trated  the  principle  of  all  the  operations  of 
Nature.  The  Maker  of  this  earth  but  patented 
a  leaf.  What  Champollion  will  decipher  this 
hieroglyphic  for  us,  that  we  may  turn  over  a 
new  leaf  at  last?  This  phenomenon  is  more 
exhilarating  to  me  than  the  luxuriance  and  fer 
tility  of  vineyards.  True,  it  is  somewhat  excre- 
mentitious  in  its  character,  and  there  is  no  end 
to  the  heaps  of  liver,  lights,  and  bowels,  as  if 
the  globe  were  turned  wrong  side  outward;  but 
this  suggests  at  least  that  Nature  has  some 
bowels,  and  there  again  is  mother  of  humanity. 
This  is  the  frost  coming  out  of  the  ground ;  this 
is  Spring.  It  precedes  the  green  and  flowery 

408  WALDEN 

spring,  as  mythology  precedes  regular  poetry. 
I  know  of  nothing  inore  purgative  of  winter 
fumes  and  indigestions.  It  convinces  me  that 
Earth  is  still  in  her  swaddling  clothes,  and 
stretches  forth  baby  fingers  on  every  side.  Fresh 
curls  spring  from  the  baldest  brow.  There  is 
nothing  inorganic.  These  foliaceous  heaps  lie 
along  the  bank  like  the  slag  of  a  furnace,  show 
ing  that  Nature  is  "in  full  blast"  within.  The 
earth  is  not  a  mere  fragment  of  dead  history, 
stratum  upon  stratum  like  the  leaves  of  a  book, 
to  be  studied  by  geologists  and  antiquaries 
chiefly,  but  living  poetry  like  the  leaves  of  a  tree, 
which  precede  flowers  and  fruit,  —  not  a  fossil 
earth,  but  a  living  earth;  compared  with  whose 
great  central  life  all  animal  and  vegetable  life 
is  merely  parasitic.  Its  throes  will  heave  our 
exuviae  from  their  graves.  You  may  melt  your 
metals  and  cast  them  into  the  most  beautiful 
moulds  you  can;  they  will  never  excite  me  like 
the  forms  which  this  molten  earth  flows  out 
into.  And  not  only  it,  but  the  institutions 
upon  it,  are  plastic  like  clay  in  the  hands  of  the 

Ere  long,  not  only  on  these  banks,  but  on 
every  hill  and  plain  and  in  every  hollow,  the 
frost  comes  out  of  the  ground  like  a  dormant 
quadruped  from  its  burrow,  and  seeks  the  sea 
with  music,  or  migrates  to  other  climes  in 
clouds.  Thaw  with  his  gentle  persuasion  is 

SPRING  409 

more   powerful   than   Thor   with   his   hammer. 
The  one  melts,  the  other  but  breaks  in  pieces. 

When  the  ground  was  partially  bare  of  snow, 
and  a  few  warm  days  had  dried  its  surface  some 
what,  it  was  pleasant  to  compare  the  first  tender 
signs  of  the  infant  year  just  peeping  forth  with 
the  stately  beauty  of  the  withered  vegetation 
which  had  withstood  the  winter,  —  life-ever 
lasting,  goldenrods,  pinweeds,  and  graceful  wild 
grasses,  more  obvious  and  interesting  frequently 
than  in  summer  even,  as  if  their  beauty  was  not 
ripe  till  then;  even  cotton-grass,  cattails,  mul 
leins,  Johnswort,  hardhack,  meadow-sweet,  and 
other  strong  stemmed  plants,  those  unexhausted 
granaries  which  entertain  the  earliest  birds,  - 
decent  weeds,  at  least,  which  widowed  Nature 
wears.  I  am  particularly  attracted  by  the  arch 
ing  and  sheaf-like  top  of  the  wool-grass;  it 
brings  back  the  summer  to  our  winter  memories, 
and  is  among  the  forms  which  art  loves  to  copy, 
and  which,  in  the  vegetable  kingdom,  have  the 
same  relation  to  types  already  in  the  mind  of 
man  that  astronomy  has.  It  is  an  antique  style 
older  than  Greek  or  Egyptian.  Many  of  the 
phenomena  of  Winter  are  suggestive  of  an  in 
expressible  tenderness  and  fragile  delicacy.  We 
are  accustomed  to  hear  this  king  described 
as  a  rude  and  boisterous  tyrant ;  but  with  the 
gentleness  of  a  lover  he  adorns  the  tresses  of 

410  WALDEN 

At  the  approach  of  spring  the  red  squirrels 
got  under  my  house,  two  at  a  time,  directly 
under  my  feet  as  I  sat  reading  or  writing,  and 
kept  up  the  queerest  chuckling  and  chirruping 
and  vocal  pirouetting  and  gurgling  sounds  that 
ever  were  heard ;  and  when  I  stamped  they  only 
chirruped  the  louder,  as  if  past  all  fear  and  re 
spect  in  their  mad  pranks,  defying  humanity 
to  stop  them.  No  you  don't  —  chickaree  — 
chickaree.  They  were  wholly  deaf  to  my  argu 
ments,  or  failed  to  perceive  their  force,  and  fell 
into  a  strain  of  invective  that  was  irresistible. 

The  first  sparrow  of  spring !  The  year  be 
ginning  with  younger  hope  than  ever !  The 
faint  silvery  warblings  heard  over  the  partially 
bare  and  moist  fields  from  the  bluebird,  the  song- 
sparrow,  and  the  red-wing,  as  if  the  last  flakes 
of  winter  tinkled  as  they  fell !  What  at  such  a 
time  are  histories,  chronologies,  traditions,  and 
all  written  revelations  ?  The  brooks  sing  carols 
and  glees  to  the  spring.  The  marsh-hawk  sail 
ing  low  over  the  meadow  is  already  seeking  the 
first  slimy  life  that  awakes.  The  sinking  sound  of 
melting  snow  is  heard  in  all  dells,  and  the  ice  dis 
solves  apace  in  the  ponds.  The  grass  flames  up 
on  the  hill  sides  like  a  spring  fire,  —  "et  primi- 
tus  orbitur  herba  imbribus  primoribus  evocata," 
—  as  if  the  earth  sent  forth  an  inward  heat  to 
greet  the  returning  sun;  not  yellow  but  green  is 
the  color  of  its  flame ;  —  the  symbol  of  perpetual 

SPRING  411 

youth,  the  grass-blade,  like  a  long  green  ribbon, 
streams  from  the  sod  into  the  summer,  checked 
indeed  by  the  frost,  but  anon  pushing  on  again, 
lifting  its  spear  of  last  year's  hay  with  the  fresh 
life  below.  It  grows  as  steadily  as  the  rill  oozes 
out  of  the  ground.  It  is  almost  identical  with 
that,  for  in  the  growing  days  of  June,  when  the 
rills  are  dry,  the  grass-blades  are  their  channels, 
and  from  year  to  year  the  herds  drink  at  this 
perennial  green  stream,  and  the  mower  draws 
from  it  betimes  their  winter  supply.  So  our 
human  life  but  dies  down  to  its  root,  and  still 
puts  forth  its  green  blade  to  eternity. 

Walden  is  melting  apace.  There  is  a  canal 
two  rods  wide  along  the  northerly  and  westerly 
sides,  and  wider  still  at  the  east  end.  A  great 
field  of  ice  has  cracked  off  from  the  main  body. 
I  hear  a  song-sparrow  singing  from  the  bushes 
on  the  shore,  —  olit,  olit,  olit,  —  chip,  chip,  chip, 
che,  char,  —  che  wiss,  wiss,  wiss.  He  too  is 
helping  to  crack  it.  How  handsome  the  great 
sweeping  curves  in  the  edge  of  the  ice,  answer 
ing  somewhat  to  those  of  the  shore,  but  more 
regular!  It  is  unusually  hard,  owing  to  the 
recent  severe  but  transient  cold,  and  all  watered 
or  waved  like  a  palace  floor.  But  the  wind  slides 
eastward  over  its  opaque  surface  in  vain,  till  it 
reaches  the  living  surface  beyond.  It  is  glori 
ous  to  behold  this  ribbon  of  water  sparkling  in 
the  sun,  the  bare  face  of  the  pond  full  of  glee 

412  WALDEN 

and  youth,  as  if  it  spoke  the  joy  of  the  fishes 
within  it,  and  of  the  sands  on  its  shore,  —  a 
silvery  sheen  as  from  the  scales  of  a  leuciscus,  as 
it  were  all  one  active  fish.  Such  is  the  contrast 
between  winter  and  spring.  Walden  was  dead 
and  is  alive  again.  But  this  spring  it  broke  up 
more  steadily,  as  I  have  said. 

The  change  from  storm  and  winter  to  serene 
and  mild  weather,  from  dark  and  sluggish  hours 
to  bright  and  elastic  ones,  is  a  memorable  crisis 
which  all  things  proclaim.  It  is  seemingly  in 
stantaneous  at  last.  Suddenly  an  influx  of  light 
filled  my  house,  though  the  evening  was  at  hand, 
and  the  clouds  of  winter  still  overhung  it,  and 
the  eaves  were  dripping  with  sleety  rain.  I 
looked  out  the  window,  and  lo !  where  yesterday 
was  cold  gray  ice  there  lay  the  transparent  pond 
already  calm  and  full  of  hope  as  in  a  summer  eve 
ning,  reflecting  a  summer  evening  sky  in  its  bosom, 
though  none  was  visible  overhead,  as  if  it  had 
intelligence  with  some  remote  horizon.  I  heard 
a  robin  in  the  distance,  the  first  I  had  heard  for 
many  a  thousand  years,  methought,  whose  note 
I  shall  not  forget  for  many  a  thousand  more,  — 
the  same  sweet  and  powerful  song  as  of  yore.  O 
the  evening  robin,  at  the  end  of  a  New  England 
summer  day !  If  I  could  ever  find  the  twig  he 
sits  upon!  I  mean  he;  I  mean  the  twig.  This 
at  least  is  not  the  Turdus  migratorius.  The 
pitch-pines  and  shrub-oaks  about  my  house, 

SPRING  413 

which  had  so  long  drooped,  suddenly  resumed 
their  several  characters,  looked  brighter,  greener, 
and  more  erect  and  alive,  as  if  effectually  cleansed 
and  restored  by  the  rain.  I  knew  that  it  would 
not  rain  any  more.  You  may  tell  by  looking  at 
any  twig  of  the  forest,  ay,  at  your  very  wood 
pile,  whether  its  winter  is  past  or  not.  As  it 
grew  darker,  I  was  startled  by  the  honking  of 
geese  flying  low  over  the  woods,  like  weary 
travellers  getting  in  late  from  southern  lakes, 
and  indulging  at  last  in  unrestrained  complaint 
and  mutual  consolation.  Standing  at  my  door, 
I  could  hear  the  rush  of  their  wings;  when, 
driving  toward  my  house,  they  suddenly  spied 
my  light,  and  with  hushed  clamor  wheeled  and 
settled  in  the  pond.  So  I  came  in,  and  shut  the 
door,  and  passed  my  first  spring  night  in  the 

In  the  morning  I  watched  the  geese  from  the 
door  through  the  mist,  sailing  in  the  middle  of 
the  pond,  fifty  rods  off,  so  large  and  tumultuous 
that  Walden  appeared  like  an  artificial  pond 
for  their  amusement.  But  when  I  stood  on  the 
shore  they  at  once  rose  up  with  a  great  flapping 
of  wings  at  the  signal  of  their  commander,  and 
when  they  had  got  into  rank,  circled  about  over 
my  head,  twenty-nine  of  them,  and  then  steered 
straight  to  Canada,  with  a  regular  honk  from 
the  leader  at  intervals,  trusting  to  break  their 
fast  in  muddier  pools.  A  "plump"  of  ducks 

414  WALDEN 

rose  at  the  same  time  and  took  the  route  to  the 
north  in  the  wake  of  their  noisier  cousins. 

For  a  week  I  heard  the  circling  groping  clangor 
of  some  solitary  goose  in  the  foggy  mornings, 
seeking  its  companion,  and  still  peopling  the 
woods  with  the  sound  of  a  larger  life  than  they 
could  sustain.  In  April  the  pigeons  were  seen 
again  flying  express  in  small  flocks,  and  in  due 
time  I  heard  the  martins  twittering  over  my 
clearing,  though  it  had  not  seemed  that  the 
township  contained  so  many  that  it  could  afford 
me  any,  and  I  fancied  that  they  were  peculiarly 
of  the  ancient  race  that  dwelt  in  hollow  trees  ere 
white  men  came.  In  almost  all  climes  the  tor 
toise  and  the  frog  are  among  the  precursors  and 
heralds  of  this  season,  and  birds  fly  with  song 
and  glancing  plumage,  and  plants  spring  and 
bloom,  and  winds  blow,  to  correct  this  slight 
oscillation  of  the  poles  and  preserve  the  equilib 
rium  of  Nature. 

As  every  season  seems  best  to  us  in  its  turn, 
so  the  coming  in  of  spring  is  like  the  creation  of 
Cosmos  out  of  Chaos  and  the  realization  of  the 
Golden  Age.  — 

"Bums  ad  Auroram,  Nabathacaque  regna  recessit, 
Persidaque,  et  radiis  juga  subdita  matutinis." 

"The    East- Wind    withdrew    to    Aurora   and    the    Nabathsean 

And  the  Persian,  and  the  ridges  placed  under  the  morning  rays. 

SPRING  415 

Man  was  born.    Whether  that  Artificer  of  things, 
The  origin  of  a  better  world,  made  him  from  the  divine  seed ; 
i  Or  the  earth  being  recent  and  lately  sundered  from  the  high 
Ether,  retained  some  seeds  of  cognate  heaven." 

A  single  gentle  rain  makes  the  grass  many 
shades  greener.  So  our  prospects  brighten  on 
the  influx  of  better  thoughts.  We  should  be 
blessed  if  we  lived  in  the  present  always,  and 
took  advantage  of  every  accident  that  befell  us, 
like  the  grass  which  confesses  the  influence  of 
the  slightest  dew  that  falls  on  it;  and  did  not 
spend  our  time  in  atoning  for  the  neglect  of  past 
opportunities,  which  we  call  doing  our  duty. 
We  loiter  in  winter  while  it  is  already  spring.  In 
a  pleasant  spring  morning  all  men's  sins  are  for 
given.  Such  a  day  is  a  truce  to  vice.  While  such 
a  sun  holds  out  to  burn,  the  vilest  sinner  may 
return.  Through  our  own  recovered  innocence 
we  discern  the  innocence  of  our  neighbors.  You 
may  have  known  your  neighbor  yesterday  for 
a  thief,  a  drunkard,  or  a  sensualist,  and  merely 
pitied  or  despised  him,  and  despaired  of  the 
world;  but  the  sun  shines  bright  and  warm 
this  first  spring  morning,  recreating  the  world, 
and  you  meet  him  at  some  serene  work,  and  see 
how  his  exhausted  and  debauched  veins  ex 
pand  with  still  joy  and  bless  the  new  day,  feel 
the  spring  influence  with  the  innocence  of  in 
fancy,  and  all  his  faults  are  forgotten.  There  is 
not  only  an  atmosphere  of  good  will  about  him, 

416  WALDEN 

but  even  a  savor  of  holiness  groping  for  expres 
sion,  blindly  and  ineffectually  perhaps,  like  a 
new-born  instinct,  and  for  a  short  hour  the  south 
hill  side  echoes  to  no  vulgar  jest.  You  see  some 
innocent  fair  shoots  preparing  to  burst  from  his 
gnarled  rind  and  try  another  year's  life,  tender 
and  fresh  as  the  youngest  plant.  Even  he  has 
entered  into  the  joy  of  his  Lord.  Why  the  jailer 
does  not  leave  open  his  prison  doors,  —  why 
the  judge  does  not  dismiss  his  case,  —  why  the 
preacher  does  not  dismiss  his  congregation !  It 
is  because  they  do  not  obey  the  hint  which  God 
gives  them,  nor  accept  the  pardon  which  he 
freely  offers  to  all. 

"A  return  to  goodness  produced  each  day  in 
the  tranquil  and  beneficent  breath  of  the  morn 
ing,  causes  that  in  respect  to  the  love  of  virtue 
and  the  hatred  of  vice,  one  approaches  a  little 
the  primitive  nature  of  man,  as  the  sprouts 
of  the  forest  which  has  been  felled.  In  like  man 
ner  the  evil  which  one  does  in  the  interval  of 
a  day  prevents  the  germs  of  virtues  which  began 
to  spring  up  again  from  developing  themselves 
and  destroys  them. 

"After  the  germs  of  virtue  have  thus  been  pre 
vented  many  times  from  developing  themselves, 
then  the  beneficent  breath  of  evening  does  not 
suffice  to  preserve  them.  As  soon  as  the  breath 
of  evening  does  not  suffice  longer  to  preserve 
them,  then  the  nature  of  man  does  not  differ 

SPRING  417 

much  from  that  of  the  brute.  Men  seeing  the 
nature  of  this  man  like  that  of  the  brute,  think 
that  he  has  never  possessed  the  innate  faculty 
of  reason.  Are  those  the  true  and  natural  senti 
ments  of  man?" 

"The  Golden  Age  was  first  created,  which  without  any  avenger 
Spontaneously  without  law  cherished  fidelity  and  rectitude. 
Punishment  and  fear  were  not ;  nor  were  threatening  words  read 
On  suspended  brass ;  nor  did  the  suppliant  crowd  fear 
The  words  of  their  judge ;  but  were  safe  without  an  avenger. 
Not  yet  the  pine  felled  on  its  mountains  had  descended 
To  the  liquid  waves  that  it  might  see  a  foreign  world, 
And  mortals  knew  no  shores  but  their  own. 

There  was  eternal  spring,  and  placid  zephyrs  with  warm 
Blasts  soothed  the  flowers  born  without  seed." 

On  the  29th  of  April,  as  I  was  fishing  from 
the  bank  of  the  river  near  the  Nine-Acre-Corner 
bridge,  standing  on  the  quaking  grass  and  wil 
low  roots,  where  the  muskrats  lurk,  I  heard  a 
singular  rattling  sound,  somewhat  like  that  of 
the  sticks  which  boys  play  with  their  fingers, 
when,  looking  up,  I  observed  a  very  slight  and 
graceful  hawk,  like  a  night-hawk,  alternately 
soaring  like  a  ripple  and  tumbling  a  rod  or  two 
over  and  over,  showing  the  underside  of  its 
wings,  which  gleamed  like  a  satin  ribbon  in  the 
sun,  or  like  the  pearly  inside  of  a  shell.  This 
sight  reminded  me  of  falconry  and  what  noble 
ness  and  poetry  are  associated  with  that  sport. 
The  Merlin  it  seemed  to  me  it  might  be  called: 


418  WALDEN 

but  I  care  not  for  its  name.  It  was  the  most 
ethereal  flight  I  had  ever  witnessed.  It  did  not 
simply  flutter  like  a  butterfly,  nor  soar  like  the 
larger  hawks,  but  it  sported  with  proud  reliance 
in  the  fields  of  air;  mounting  again  and  again 
with  its  strange  chuckle,  it  repeated  its  free  and 
beautiful  fall,  turning  over  and  over  like  a  kite, 
and  then  recovering  from  its  lofty  tumbling,  as 
if  it  had  never  set  its  foot  on  terra  firma.  It  ap 
peared  to  have  no  companion  in  the  universe, 
—  sporting  there  alone,  —  and  to  need  none  but 
the  morning  and  the  ether  with  which  it  played. 
It  was  not  lonely,  but  made  all  the  earth  lonely 
beneath  it.  Where  was  the  parent  which 
hatched  it,  its  kindred,  and  its  father  in  the 
heavens?  The  tenant  of  the  air,  it  seemed  re 
lated  to  the  earth  but  by  an  egg  hatched  some 
time  in  the  crevice  of  a  crag ;  —  or  was  its  native 
nest  made  in  the  angle  of  a  cloud,  woven  of  the 
rainbow's  trimmings  and  the  sunset  sky,  and 
lined  with  some  soft  midsummer  haze  caught 
up  from  earth  ?  Its  eyry  now  some  cliffy  cloud. 
Besides  this  I  got  a  rare  mess  of  golden  and 
silver  and  bright  cupreous  fishes,  which  looked 
like  a  string  of  jewels.  Ah !  I  have  penetrated 
to  those  meadows  on  the  morning  of  many  a 
first  spring  day,  jumping  from  hummock  to 
hummock,  from  willow  root  to  willow  root,  when 
the  wild  river  valley  and  the  woods  were  bathed 
in  so  pure  and  bright  a  light  as  would  have 



SPRING  419 

waked  the  dead,  if  they  had  been  slumbering 
in  their  graves,  as  some  suppose.  There  needs 
no  stronger  proof  of  immortality.  All  things 
must  live  in  such  a  light.  O  Death,  where  was 
thy  sting?  O  Grave,  where  was  thy  victory, 
then  ? 

Our  village  life  would  stagnate  if  it  were  not 
for  the  unexplored  forests  and  meadows  which 
surround  it.  We  need  the  tonic  of  wildness,  - 
to  wade  sometimes  in  marshes  where  the  bittern 
and  the  meadow-hen  lurk,  and  hear  the  booming 
of  the  snipe ;  to  smell  the  whispering  sedge  where 
only  some  wilder  and  more  solitary  fowl  builds 
her  nest,  and  the  mink  crawls  with  its  belly 
close  to  the  ground.  At  the  same  time  that  we 
are  earnest  to  explore  and  learn  all  things,  we 
require  that  all  things  be  mysterious  and  unex- 
plorable,  that  land  and  sea  be  infinitely  wild, 
unsurveyed  and  unfathomed  by  us  because  un 
fathomable.  We  can  never  have  enough  of 
Nature.  We  must  be  refreshed  by  the  sight  of 
inexhaustible  vigor,  vast  and  Titanic  features, 
the  sea-coast  with  its  wrecks,  the  wilderness 
with  its  living  and  its  decaying  trees,  the  thun 
der-cloud,  and  the  rain  which  lasts  three  weeks 
and  produces  freshets.  We  need  to  witness  our 
own  limits  transgressed,  and  some  life  pasturing 
freely  where  we  never  wander.  We  are  cheered 
when  we  observe  the  vulture  feeding  on  the  car 
rion  which  disgusts  and  disheartens  us,  and  de- 

420  WALDEN 

riving  health  and  strength  from  the  repast. 
There  was  a  dead  horse  in  the  hollow  by  the 
path  to  my  house,  which  compelled  me  some 
times  to  go  out  of  my  way,  especially  in  the 
night  when  the  air  was  heavy,  but  the  assurance 
it  gave  me  of  the  strong  appetite  and  inviolable 
health  of  Nature  was  my  compensation  for  this. 
I  love  to  see  that  Nature  is  so  rife  with  life  that 
myriads  can  be  afforded  to  be  sacrificed  and 
suffered  to  prey  on  one  another;  that  tender 
organizations  can  be  so  serenely  squashed  out 
of  existence  like  pulp,  —  tadpoles  which  herons 
gobble  up,  and  tortoises  and  toads  run  over  in 
the  road;  and  that  sometimes  it  has  rained 
flesh  and  blood !  With  the  liability  to  accident, 
we  must  see  how  little  account  is  to  be  made  of 
it.  The  impression  made  on  a  wise  man  is  that 
of  universal  innocence.  Poison  is  not  poisonous 
after  all,  nor  are  any  wounds  fatal.  Compas 
sion  is  a  very  untenable  ground.  It  must  be 
expeditious.  Its  pleadings  will  not  bear  to  be 

Early  in  May,  the  oaks,  hickories,  maples, 
and  other  trees,  just  putting  out  amidst  the  pine 
woods  around  the  pond,  imparted  a  brightness 
like  sunshine  to  the  landscape,  especially  in 
cloudy  days,  as  if  the  sun  were  breaking  through 
mists  and  shining  faintly  on  the  hill  sides  here 
and  there.  On  the  third  or  fourth  of  May  I  saw 
a  loon  in  the  pond,  and  during  the  first  week  of 


the  month  I  heard  the  whippoorwill,  the  brown 
thrasher,  the  veery,  the  wood-pewee,  chewink, 
and  other  birds.  I  had  heard  the  wood-thrush 
long  before.  The  phoebe  had  already  come 
once  more  and  looked  in  at  my  door  and  win 
dow,  to  see  if  my  house  was  cavern-like  enough 
for  her,  sustaining  herself  on  humming  wings 
with  clinched  talons,  as  if  she  held  by  the  air, 
while  she  surveyed  the  premises.  The  sulphur- 
like  pollen  of  the  pitch-pine  soon  covered  the 
pond  and  the  stones  and  rotten  wood  along  the 
shore,  so  that  you  could  have  collected  a  barrel- 
ful.  This  is  the  "sulphur  showers"  we  hear  of. 
Even  in  Calidasa's  drama  of  Sacontala,  we  read 
of  "  rills  dyed  yellow  with  the  golden  dust  of  the 
lotus."  And  so  the  seasons  went  rolling  on  into 
summer,  as  one  rambles  into  higher  and  higher 

Thus  was  my  first  year's  life  in  the  woods 
completed ;  and  the  second  year  was  similar  to 
it.  I  finally  left  Walden  September  6th,  1847. 



TO  the  sick  the  doctors  wisely  recommend 
a  change  of  air  and  scenery.  Thank 
Heaven,  here  is  not  all  the  world.  The 
buckeye  does  not  grow  in  New  England,  and 
the  mocking-bird  is  rarely  heard  here.  The 
wild  goose  is  more  of  a  cosmopolite  than  we; 
he  breaks  his  fast  in  Canada,  takes  a  luncheon 
in  the  Ohio,  and  plumes  himself  for  the  night 
in  a  southern  bayou.  Even  the  bison  to  some 
extent  keeps  pace  with  the  seasons,  cropping 
the  pastures  of  the  Colorado  only  till  a  greener 
and  sweeter  grass  awaits  him  by  the  Yellow 
stone.  Yet  we  think  that  if  rail-fences  are 
pulled  down,  and  stone-walls  piled  up  on  our 
farms,  bounds  are  henceforth  set  to  our  "lives 
and  our  fates  decided.  If  you  are  chosen  town 
clerk,  forsooth,  you  cannot  go  to  Terra  del 
Fuego  this  summer:  but  you  may  go  to  the 
land  of  infernal  fire  nevertheless.  The  universe 
is  wider  than  our  views  of  it. 

Yet  we  should  oftener  look  over  the  tafferel 
of  our  craft,  like  curious  passengers,  and  not 
make  the  voyage  like  stupid  sailors  picking 


oakum.  The  other  side  of  the  globe  is  but  the 
home  of  our  correspondent.  Our  voyage  is  only 
great  circle-sailing,  and  the  doctors  prescribe 
for  diseases  of  the  skin  merely.  One  hastens 
to  Southern  Africa  to  chase  the  giraffe;  but 
surely  that  is  not  the  game  he  would  be  after. 
How  long,  pray,  would  a  man  hunt  giraffes  if  he 
could  ?  Snipes  and  woodcocks  also  may  afford 
rare  sport ;  but  I  trust  it  would  be  nobler  game 
to  shoot  one's  self.  — 

"Direct  your  eye  right  inward,  and  you'll  find 
A  thousand  regions  in  your  mind 
Yet  undiscovered.     Travel  them,  and  be 
Expert  in  home-cosmography." 

What  does  Africa, -- what  does  the  West 
stand  for  ?  Is  not  our  own  interior  white  on  the 
chart  ?  black  though  it  may  prove,  like  the 
coast,  when  discovered.  Is  it  the  source  of  the 
Nile,  or  the  Niger,  or  the  Mississippi,  or  a  North 
west  Passage  around  this  continent,  that  we 
would  find  ?  Are  these  the  problems  which  most 
concern  mankind  ?  Is  Franklin  the  only  man 
who  is  lost,  that  his  wife  should  be  so  earnest 
to  find  him  ?  Does  Mr.  Grinnell  know  where 
he  himself  is  ?  Be  rather  the  Mungo  Park,  the 
Lewis  and  Clarke  and  Frobisher,  of  your  own 
streams  and  oceans;  explore  your  own  higher 
latitudes,  —  with  shiploads  of  preserved  meats 
to  support  you,  if  they  be  necessary;  and  pile 
the  empty  cans  sky-high  for  a  sign.  Were  pre- 

424  WALDEN 

served  meats  invented  to  preserve  meat  merely  ? 
Nay,  be  a  Columbus  to  whole  new  continents 
and  worlds  within  you,  opening  new  channels, 
not  of  trade,  but  of  thought.  Every  man  is  the 
lord  of  a  realm  beside  which  the  earthly  empire 
of  the  Czar  is  but  a  petty  state,  a  hummock  left 
by  the  ice.  Yet  some  can  be  patriotic  who 
have  no  seZ/-respect,  and  sacrifice  the  greater  to 
the  less.  They  love  the  soil  which  makes  their 
graves,  but  have  no  sympathy  with  the  spirit 
which  may  still  animate  their  clay.  Patriotism 
is  a  maggot  in  their  heads.  What  was  the  mean 
ing  of  that  South-Sea  Exploring  Expedition, 
with  all  its  parade  and  expense,  but  an  indirect 
recognition  of  the  fact  that  there  are  continents 
and  seas  in  the  moral  world,  to  which  every 
man  is  an  isthmus  or  an  inlet,  yet  unexplored  by 
him,  but  that  it  is  easier  to  sail  many  thousand 
miles  through  cold  and  storm  and  cannibals, 
in  a  government  ship,  with  five  hundred  men 
and  boys  to  assist  one,  than  it  is  to  explore  the 
private  sea,  the  Atlantic  and  Pacific  Ocean  of 
one's  being  alone.  — 

"Erret,  et  extremes  alter  scrutetur  Iberos. 
Plus  habet  hie  vitae,  plus  habet  iHe  viee." 

"Let  them  wander  and  scrutinize  the  outlandish  Australians. 
I  have  more  of  God,  they  more  of  the  road." 

It  is  not  worth  the  while  to  go  round  the  world  to 
count  the  cats  in  Zanzibar.  Yet  do  this  even 


till  you  can  do  better,  and  you  may  perhaps  find 
some  "Symmes'  Hole"  by  which  to  get  at  the 
inside  at  last.  England  and  France,  Spain  and 
Portugal,  Gold  Coast  and  Slave  Coast,  all  front 
on  this  private  sea ;  but  no  bark  from  them  has 
ventured  out  of  sight  of  land,  though  it  is  without 
doubt  the  direct  way  to  India.  If  you  would 
learn  to  speak  all  tongues  and  conform  to  the 
customs  of  all  nations,  if  you  would  travel 
farther  than  all  travellers,  be  naturalized  in  all 
climes,  and  cause  the  Sphinx  to  dash  her  head 
against  a  stone,  even  obey  the  precept  of  the 
old  philosopher,  and  Explore  thyself.  Herein 
are  demanded  the  eye  and  the  nerve.  Only  the 
defeated  and  deserters  go  to  the  wars,  cowards 
that  run  away  and  enlist.  Start  now  on  that 
farthest  western  way,  which  does  not  pause 
at  the  Mississippi  or  the  Pacific,  nor  conduct 
toward  a  worn-out  China  or  Japan,  but  leads 
on  direct  a  tangent  to  this  sphere,  summer  and 
winter,  day  and  night,  sun  down,  moon  down, 
and  at  last  earth  down  too. 

It  is  said  that  Mirabeau  took  to  highway  rob 
bery  "to  ascertain  what  degree  of  resolution  was 
necessary  in  order  to  place  one's  self  in  formal 
opposition  to  the  most  sacred  laws  of  society." 
He  declared  that  "a  soldier  who  fights  in  the 
ranks  does  not  require  half  so  much  courage  as 
a  foot-pad,"  —  "that  honor  and  religion  have 
never  stood  in  the  way  of  a  well-considered  and 

426  WALDEN 

a  firm  resolve."  This  was  manly,  as  the  world 
goes;  and  yet  it  was  idle,  if  not  desperate.  A 
saner  man  would  have  found  himself  often 
enough  "in  formal  opposition"  to  what  are 
deemed  "the  most  sacred  laws  of  society," 
through  obedience  to  yet  more  sacred  laws,  and 
so  have  tested  his  resolution  without  going  out 
of  his  way.  It  is  not  for  a  man  to  put  himself 
in  such  an  attitude  to  society,  but  to  maintain 
himself  in  whatever  attitude  he  find  himself 
through  obedience  to  the  laws  of  his  being, 
which  will  never  be  one  of  opposition  to  a  just 
government,  if  he  should  chance  to  meet  with 

I  left  the  woods  for  as  good  a  reason  as  I  went 
there.  Perhaps  it  seemed  to  me  that  I  had 
several  more  lives  to  live,  and  could  not  spare 
any  more  time  for  that  one.  It  is  remarkable 
how  easily  and  insensibly  we  fall  into  a  particu 
lar  route,  and  make  a  beaten  track  for  ourselves. 
I  had  not  lived  there  a  week  before  my  feet  wore 
a  path  from  my  door  to  the  pond-side;  and 
though  it  is  five  or  six  years  since  I  trod  it,  it  is 
still  quite  distinct.  It  is  true,  I  fear  that  others 
may  have  fallen  into  it,  and  so  helped  to  keep 
it  open.  The  surface  of  the  earth  is  soft  and 
impressible  by  the  feet  of  men;  and  so  with 
the  paths  which  the  mind  travels.  How  worn 
and  -dusty,  then,  must  be  the  highways  of  the 
world,  how  deep  the  ruts  of  tradition  and  con- 


formity !  I  did  not  wish  to  take  a  cabin  passage, 
but  rather  to  go  before  the  mast  and  on  the  deck 
of  the  world,  for  there  I  could  best  see  the  moon 
light  amid  the  mountains.  I  do  not  wish  to  go 
below  now. 

I  learned  this,  at  least,  by  my  experiment: 
that  if  one  advances  confidently  in  the  direction 
of  his  dreams,  and  endeavors  to  live  the  life 
which  he  has  imagined,  he  will  meet  with  a 
success  unexpected  in  common  hours.  He  will 
put  some  things  behind,  will  pass  an  invisible 
boundary;  new,  universal,  and  more  liberal 
laws  will  begin  to  establish  themselves  around 
and  within  him;  or  the  old  laws  be  expanded, 
and  interpreted  in  his  favor  in  a  more  liberal 
sense,  and  he  will  live  with  the  license  of  a  higher 
order  of  beings.  In  proportion  as  he  simplifies 
his  life,  the  laws  of  the  universe  will  appear  less 
complex,  and  solitude  will  not  be  solitude,  nor 
poverty  poverty,  nor  weakness  weakness.  If 
you  have  built  castles  in  the  air,  your  work  need 
not  be  lost ;  that  is  where  they  should  be.  Now 
put  the  foundations  under  them. 

It  is  a  ridiculous  demand  which  England  and 
America  make,  that  you  shall  speak  so  that  they 
can  understand  you.  Neither  men  nor  toad 
stools  grow  so.  As  if  that  were  important,  and 
there  were  not  enough  to  understand  you  with 
out  them.  As  if  Nature  could  support  but  one 
order  of  understandings,  could  not  sustain  birds 

428      .  WALDEN 

as  well  as  quadrupeds,  flying  as  well  as  creeping 
things,  and  hush  and  who,  which  Bright  can 
understand,  were  the  best  English.  As  if  there 
were  safety  in  stupidity  alone.  I  fear  chiefly 
lest  my  expression  may  not  be  extra-vagant 
enough,  may  not  wander  far  enough  beyond  the 
narrow  limits  of  my  daily  experience,  so  as  to 
be  adequate  to  the  truth  of  which  I  have  been 
convinced.  Extravagance!  it  depends  on  how 
you  are  yarded.  The  migrating  buffalo  which 
seeks  new  pastures  in  another  latitude,  is  not 
extravagant  like  the  cow  which  kicks  over  the 
pail,  leaps  the  cowyard  fence,  and  runs  after 
her  calf,  in  milking-time.  I  desire  to  speak 
somewhere  without  bounds;  like  a  man  in  a 
waking  moment,  to  men  in  their  waking  mo 
ments;  for  I  am  convinced  that  I  cannot  exag 
gerate  enough  even  to  lay  the  foundation  of 
a  true  expression.  Who  that  has  heard  a  strain 
of  music  feared  then  lest  he  should  speak  ex 
travagantly  any  more  forever?  In  view  of  the 
future  or  possible,  we  should  live  quite  laxly 
and  undefined  in  front,  our  outlines  dim  and 
misty  on  that  side;  as  our  shadows  reveal  an 
insensible  perspiration  toward  the  sun.  The 
volatile  truth  of  our  words  should  continually 
betray  the  inadequacy  of  the  residual  statement. 
Their  truth  is  instantly  translated;  its  literal 
monument  alone  remains.  The  words  which 
express  our  faith  and  piety  are  not  definite;  vet 


they  are  significant  and  fragrant  like  frankin 
cense  to  superior  natures. 

Why  level  downward  to  our  dullest  perception 
always,  and  praise  that  as  common  sense  ?  The 
commonest  sense  is  the  sense  of  men  asleep, 
which  they  express  by  snoring.  Sometimes  we 
are  inclined  to  class  those  who  are  once-and-a- 
half-witted  with  the  half-witted,  because  we 
appreciate  only  a  third  part  of  their  wit.  Some 
would  find  fault  with  the  morning-red,  if  they 
ever  got  up  early  enough.  "They  pretend," 
as  I  hear,  "that  the  verses  of  Kabir  have  four 
different  senses:  illusion,  spirit,  intellect,  and 
the  exoteric  doctrine  of  the  Vedas;"  but  in  this 
part  of  the  world  it  is  considered  a  ground  for 
complaint  if  a  man's  writings  admit  of  more 
than  one  interpretation.  While  England  en 
deavors  to  cure  the  potato-rot,  will  not  any  en 
deavor  to  cure  the  brain-rot,  which  prevails  so 
much  more  widely  and  fatally  ? 

I  do  not  suppose  that  I  have  attained  to  ob 
scurity,  but  I  should  be  proud  if  no  more  fatal 
fault  were  found  with  my  pages  on  this  score 
than  was  found  with  the  Walden  ice.  Southern 
customers  objected  to  its  blue  color,  which  is 
the  evidence  of  its  purity,  as  if  it  were  muddy, 
and  preferred  the  Cambridge  ice,  which  is  white, 
but  tastes  of  weeds.  The  purity  men  love  is 
like  the  mists  which  envelop  the  earth,  and  not 
like  the  azure  ether  beyond. 

430  WALDEN 

Some  are  dinning  in  our  ears  that  we  Ameri 
cans,  and  moderns  generally,  are  intellectual 
dwarfs  compared  with  the  ancients,  or  even  the 
Elizabethan  men.  But  what  is  that  to  the  pur 
pose?  A  living  dog  is  better  than  a  dead  lion. 
Shall  a  man  go  and  hang  himself  because  he 
belongs  to  the  race  of  pygmies,  and  not  be  the 
biggest  pygmy  that  he  can  ?  Let  every  one  mind 
his  own  business,  and  endeavor  to  be  what  he 
was  made. 

Why  should  we  be  in  such  desperate  haste  to 
succeed,  and  in  such  desperate  enterprises?  If 
a  man  does  not  keep  pace  with  his  companions, 
perhaps  it  is  because  he  hears  a  different  drum 
mer.  Let  him  step  to  the  music  which  he  hears, 
however  measured  or  far  away.  It  is  not  im 
portant  that  he  should  mature  as  soon  as  an 
apple  tree  or  an  oak.  Shall  he  turn  his  spring 
into  summer?  If  the  condition  of  things  which 
we  were  made  for  is  not  yet,  what  were  any 
reality  which  we  can  substitute?  We  will  not 
be  shipwrecked  on  a  vain  reality.  Shall  we  with 
pains  erect  a  heaven  of  blue  glass  over  ourselves, 
though  when  it  is  done  we  shall  be  sure  to  gaze 
still  at  the  true  ethereal  heaven  far  above,  as  if 
the  former  were  not  ? 

There  was  an  artist  in  the  city  of  Kouroo  who 
was  disposed  to  strive  after  perfection.  One  day 
it  came  into  his  mind  to  make  a  staff.  Having 
considered  that  in  an  imperfect  work  time  is 


an  ingredient,  but  into  a  perfect  work  time  does 
not  enter,  he  said  to  himself,  It  shall  be  perfect 
in  all  respects,  though  I  should  do  nothing  else 
in  my  life.  He  proceeded  instantly  to  the  forest 
for  wood,  being  resolved  that  it  should  not  be 
made  of  unsuitable  material ;  and  as  he  searched 
for  and  rejected  stick  after  stick,  his  friends 
gradually  deserted  him,  for  they  grew  old  in 
their  works  and  died,  but  he  grew  not  older  by 
a  moment.  His  singleness  of  purpose  and  reso 
lution,  and  his  elevated  piety,  endowed  him, 
without  his  knowledge,  with  perennial  youth. 
As  he  made  no  compromise  with  Time,  Time 
kept  out  of  his  way,  and  only  sighed  at  a  dis 
tance  because  he  could  not  overcome  him.  Be 
fore  he  had  found  a  stock  in  all  respects  suitable 
the  city  of  Kouroo  was  a  hoary  ruin,  and  he 
sat  on  one  of  its  mounds  to  peel  the  stick.  Be 
fore  he  had  given  it  the  proper  shape  the  dynasty 
of  the  Candahars  was  at  an  end,  and  with  the 
point  of  the  stick  he  wrote  the  name  of  the  last 
of  that  race  in  the  sand,  and  then  resumed  his 
work.  By  the  time  he  had  smoothed  and  polished 
the  staff  Kalpa  was  no  longer  the  pole-star; 
and  ere  he  had  put  on  the  ferule  and  the  head 
adorned  with  precious  stones,  Brahma  had 
awoke  and  slumbered  many  times.  But  why 
do  I  stay  to  mention  these  things  ?  When  the 
finishing  stroke  was  put  to  his  work,  it  suddenly 
expanded  before  the  eyes  of  the  astonished  artist 

432  WALDEN 

into  the  fairest  of  all  the  creations  of  Brahma. 
He  had  made  a  new  system  in  making  a  staff, 
a  world  with  full  and  fair  proportions ;  in  which, 
though  the  old  cities  and  dynasties  had  passed 
away,  fairer  and  more  glorious  ones  had  taken 
their  places.  And  now  he  saw  by  the  heap  of 
shavings  still  fresh  at  his  feet,  that,  for  him  and 
his  work,  the  former  lapse  of  time  had  been  an 
illusion,  and  that  no  more  time  had  elapsed  than 
is  required  for  a  single  scintillation  from  the 
brain  of  Brahma  to  fall  on  and  inflame  the 
tinder  of  a  mortal  brain.  The  material  was 
pure,  and  his  art  was  pure;  how  could  the 
result  be  other  than  wonderful  ? 

No  face  which  we  can  give  to  a  matter  will 
stead  us  so  well  at  last  as  the  truth.  This  alone 
wears  well.  For  the  most  part,  we  are  not  where 
we  are,  but  in  a  false  position.  Through  an 
infirmity  of  our  natures,  we  suppose  a  case, 
and  put  ourselves  into  it,  and  hence  are  in  two 
cases  at  the  same  time,  and  it  is  doubly  difficult 
to  get  out.  In  sane  moments  we  regard  only 
the  facts,  the  case  that  is.  Say  what  you  have 
to  say,  not  what  you  ought.  Any  truth  is  better 
than  make-believe.  Tom  Hyde,  the  tinker, 
standing  on  the  gallows,  was  asked  if  he  had 
anything  to  say.  ''Tell  the  tailors,"  said  he, 
"to  remember  to  make  a  knot  in  their  thread 
before  they  take  the  first  stitch."  His  com 
panion's  prayer  is  forgotten. 


However  mean  your  life  is,  meet  it  and  live 
it;  do  not  shun  it  and  call  it  hard  names.  It 
is  not  so  bad  as  you  are.  It  looks  poorest  when 
you  are  richest.  The  faultfinder  will  find  faults 
even  in  paradise.  Love  your  life,  poor  as  it  is. 
You  may  perhaps  have  some  pleasant,  thrilling, 
glorious  hours,  even  in  a  poorhouse.  The  setting 
sun  is  reflected  from  the  windows  of  the  alms- 
house  as  brightly  as  from  the  rich  man's  abode; 
the  snow  melts  before  its  door  as  early  in  the 
spring.  I  do  not  see  but  a  quiet  mind  may  live 
as  contentedly  there,  and  have  as  cheering 
thoughts,  as  in  a  palace.  The  town's  poor 
seem  to  me  often  to  live  the  most  independent 
lives  of  any.  Maybe  they  are  simply  great 
enough  to  receive  without  misgiving.  Most 
think  that  they  are  above  being  supported  by 
the  town;  but  it  oftener  happens  that  they  are 
not  above  supporting  themselves  by  dishonest 
means,  which  should  be  more  disreputable. 
Cultivate  poverty  like  a  garden  herb,  like  sage. 
Do  not  trouble  yourself  much  to  get  new  things, 
whether  clothes  or  friends.  Turn  the  old; 
return  to  them.  Things  do  not  change;  we 
change.  Sell  your  clothes  and  keep  your 
thoughts.  God  will  see  that  you  do  not  want 
society.  If  I  were  confined  to  a  corner  of  a 
garret  all  my  days,  like  a  spider,  the  world 
would  be  just  as  large  to  me  while  I  had  my 
thoughts  about  me.  The  philosopher  said: 

434  WALDEN 

"From  an  army  of  three  divisions  one  can 
take  away  its  general,  and  put  it  in  disorder; 
from  the  man  the  most  abject  and  vulgar  one 
cannot  take  away  his  thought."  Do  not  seek 
so  anxiously  to  be  developed,  to  subject  your 
self  to  many  influences  to  be  played  on;  it  is 
all  dissipation.  Humility  like  darkness  reveals 
the  heavenly  lights.  The  shadows  of  poverty 
and  meanness  gather  around  us,  "and  lo ! 
creation  widens  to  our  view."  We  are  often 
reminded  that  if  there  were  bestowed  on  us  the 
wealth  of  Croesus,  our  aims  must  still  be  the 
same,  and  our  means  essentially  the  same. 
Moreover,  if  you  are  restricted  in  your  range 
by  poverty,  if  you  cannot  buy  books  and  news 
papers,  for  instance,  you  are  but  confined  to 
the  most  significant  and  vital  experiences;  you 
are  compelled  to  deal  with  the  material  which 
yields  the  most  sugar  and  the  most  starch.  It 
is  life  near  the  bone  where  it  is  sweetest.  You 
are  defended  from  being  a  trifler.  No  man 
loses  ever  on  a  lower  level  by  magnanimity  on 
a  higher.  Superfluous  wealth  can  buy  super 
fluities  only.  Money  is  not  required  to  buy 
one  necessary  of  the  soul. 

I  live  in  the  angle  of  a  leaden  wall,  into  whose 
composition  was  poured  a  little  alloy  of  bell 
metal.  Often,  in  the  repose  of  my  midday,  there 
reaches  my  ears  a  confused  tintinnabulum  from 
without.  It  is  the  noise  of  my  contemporaries. 


My  neighbors  tell  me  of  their  adventures  with 
famous  gentlemen  and  ladies,  what  notabilities 
they  met  at  the  dinner-table ;  but  I  am  no  more 
interested  in  such  things  than  in  the  contents  of 
the  Daily  Times.  The  interest  and  the  conver 
sation  are  about  costume  and  manners  chiefly; 
but  a  goose  is  a  goose  still,  dress  it  as  you  will. 
They  tell  me  of  California  and  Texas,  of  England 
and  the  Indies,  of  the  Hon.  Mr.  -  -  of  Georgia 
or  of  Massachusetts,  all  transient  and  fleeting 
phenomena,  till  I  am  ready  to  leap  from  their 
court-yard  like  the  Mameluke  bey.  I  delight 
to  come  to  my  bearings,  —  not  walk  in  proces 
sion  with  pomp  and  parade,  in  a  conspicuous 
place,  but  to  walk  even  with  the  Builder  of  the 
Universe,  if  I  may,  —  not  to  live  in  this  restless, 
nervous,  bustling,  trivial  Nineteenth  Century, 
but  stand  or  sit  thoughtfully  while  it  goes  by. 
What  are  men  celebrating  ?  They  are  all  on  a 
committee  of  arrangements,  and  hourly  expect  a 
speech  from  somebody.  God  is  only  the  presi 
dent  of  the  day,  and  Webster  is  His  orator.  I 
love  to  weigh,  to  settle,  to  gravitate  toward  that 
which  most  strongly  and  rightfully  attracts  me; 
-  not  hang  by  the  beam  of  the  scale  and  try  to 
weigh  less,  —  not  suppose  a  case,  but  take  the 
case  that  is;  to  travel  the  only  path  I  can,  and 
that  on  which  no  power  can  resist  me.  It  af 
fords  me  no  satisfaction  to  commence  to  spring 
an  arch  before  I  have  got  a  solid  foundation. 

436  WALDEN 

Let  us  not  play  at  kittly  benders.  There  is  a 
solid  bottom  everywhere.  We  read  that  the 
traveller  asked  the  boy  if  the  swamp  before  him 
had  a  hard  bottom.  The  boy  replied  that  it  had. 
But  presently  the  traveller's  horse  sank  in  up 
to  the  girths,  and  he  observed  to  the  boy,  "I 
thought  you  said  that  this  bog  had  a  hard  bot 
tom."  "So  it  has,"  answered  the  latter,  "but 
you  have  not  got  half  way  to  it  yet."  So  it  is 
with  the  bogs  and  quicksands  of  society;  but 
he  is  an  old  boy  that  knows  it.  Only  what  is 
thought,  said,  or  done  at  a  certain  rare  coinci 
dence  is  good.  I  would  not  be  one  of  those  who 
will  foolishly  drive  a  nail  into  mere  lath  and 
plastering;  such  a  deed  would  keep  me  awake 
nights.  Give  me  a  hammer,  and  let  me  feel  for 
the  furring.  Do  not  depend  on  the  putty.  Drive 
a  nail  home  and  clinch  it  so  faithfully  that  you 
can  wake  up  in  the  night  and  think  of  your  work 
with  satisfaction,  —  a  work  at  which  you  would 
not  be  ashamed  to  invoke  the  Muse.  So  will  help 
you  God,  and  so  only.  Every  nail  driven  should 
be  as  another  rivet  in  the  machine  of  the  uni 
verse,  you  carrying  on  the  work. 

Rather  than  love,  than  money,  than  fame,  give 
me  truth.  I  sat  at  a  table  where  were  rich  food 
and  wine  in  abundance,  and  obsequious  attend 
ance,  but  sincerity  and  truth  were  not;  and  I 
went  away  hungry  from  the  inhospitable  board. 
The  hospitality  was  as  cold  as  the  ices.  I 


thought  that  there  was  no  need  of  ice  to  freeze 
them.  They  talked  to  me  of  the  age  of  the  wine 
and  the  fame  of  the  vintage;  but  I  thought  of 
an  older,  a  newer,  and  purer  wine,  of  a  more 
glorious  vintage,  which  they  had  not  got,  and 
could  not  buy.  The  style,  the  house  and  grounds 
and  "entertainment,"  pass  for  nothing  with  me. 
I  called  on  the  king,  but  he  made  me  wait  in  his 
hall,  and  conducted  like  a  man  incapacitated  for 
hospitality.  There  was  a  man  in  my  neighbor 
hood  who  lived  in  a  hollow  tree.  His  manners 
were  truly  regal.  I  should  have  done  better  had 
I  called  on  him. 

How  long  shall  we  sit  in  our  porticos  practising 
idle  and  musty  virtues,  which  any  work  would 
make  impertinent  ?  As  if  one  were  to  begin  the 
day  with  long-suffering,  and  hire  a  man  to  hoe 
his  potatoes;  and  in  the  afternoon  go  forth  to 
practise  Christian  meekness  and  chanty  with 
goodness  aforethought !  Consider  the  China 
pride  and  stagnant  self-complacency  of  man 
kind.  This  generation  reclines  a  little  to  con 
gratulate  itself  on  being  the  last  of  an  illustrious 
line;  and  in  Boston  and  London  and  Paris  and 
Rome,  thinking  of  its  long  descent,  it  speaks  of 
its  progress  in  art  and  science  and  literature  with 
satisfaction.  There  are  the  Records  of  the  Phil 
osophical  Societies,  and  the  public  Eulogies  of 
Great  Men!  It  is  the  good  Adam  contemplating 
his  own  virtue.  'Yes,  we  have  done  great 

438  WALDEN 

deeds,  and  sung  divine  songs,  which  shall  never 
die,"  —  that  is,  as  long  as  we  can  remember  them. 
The  learned  societies  and  great  men  of  Assyria, 
-  where  are  they  ?  What  youthful  philosophers 
and  experimentalists  we  are  !  There  is  not  one 
of  my  readers  who  has  yet  lived  a  whole  human 
life.  These  may  be  but  the  spring  months  in 
the  life  of  the  race.  If  we  have  had  the  seven- 
years'  itch,  we  have  not  seen  the  seventeen-year 
locust  yet  in  Concord.  We  are  acquainted  with  a 
mere  pellicle  of  the  globe  on  which  we  live.  Most 
have  not  delved  six  feet  beneath  the  surface,  nor 
leaped  as  many  above  it.  We  know  not  where 
we  are.  Besides,  we  are  sound  asleep  nearly 
half  our  time.  Yet  we  esteem  ourselves  wise, 
and  have  an  established  order  on  the  surface. 
Truly,  we  are  deep  thinkers,  we  are  ambitious 
spirits  !  As  I  stand  over  the  insect  crawling  amid 
the  pine  needles  on  the  forest  floor,  and  endeav 
oring  to  conceal  itself  from  my  sight,  and  ask 
myself  why  it  will  cherish  those  humble  thoughts 
and  hide  its  head  from  me  who  might,  perhaps, 
be  its  benefactor  and  impart  to  its  race  some 
cheering  information,  I  am  reminded  of  the 
greater  Benefactor  and  Intelligence  that  stands 
over  me,  the  human  insect. 

There  is  an  incessant  influx  of  novelty  into  the 
world,  and  yet  we  tolerate  incredible  dulness.  I 
need  only  suggest  what  kind  of  sermons  are  still 
listened  to  in  the  most  enlightened  countries. 


There  are  such  words  as  joy  and  sorrow,  but 
they  are  only  the  burden  of  a  psalm,  sung  with  a 
nasal  twang,  while  we  believe  in  the  ordinary 
and  mean.  We  think  that  we  can  change  our 
clothes  only.  It  is  said  that  the  British  Empire 
is  very  large  and  respectable,  and  that  the  United 
States  are  a  first-rate  power.  We  do  not  believe 
that  a  tide  rises  and  falls  behind  every  man  which 
can  float  the  British  Empire  like  a  chip,  if  he 
should  ever  harbor  it  in  his  mind.  Who  knows 
what  sort  of  seventeen-year  locust  will  next 
come  out  of  the  ground  ?  The  government  of 
the  world  I  live  in  was  not  framed,  like  that  of 
Britain,  in  after-dinner  conversations  over  the 

The  life  in  us  is  like  the  water  in  the  river.  It 
may  rise  this  year  higher  than  man  has  ever 
known  it,  and  flood  the  parched  uplands;  even 
this  may  be  the  eventful  year,  which  will  drown 
out  all  our  muskrats.  It  was  not  always  dry  land 
where  we  dwell.  I  see  far  inland  the  banks 
which  the  stream  anciently  washed,  before 
science  began  to  record  its  freshets.  Everyone 
has  heard  the  story  which  has  gone  the  rounds  of 
New  England,  of  a  strong  and  beautiful  bug 
which  came  out  of  the  dry  leaf  of  an  old  table  of 
apple-tree  wood,  which  had  stood  in  a  farmer's 
kitchen  for  sixty  years,  first  in  Connecticut,  and 
afterward  in  Massachusetts,  —  from  an  egg  de 
posited  in  the  living  tree  many  years  earlier 

440  WALDEN 

still,  as  appeared  by  counting  the  annual  layers 
beyond  it;  which  was  heard  gnawing  out  for 
several  wreeks,  hatched  perchance  by  the  heat  of 
an  urn.  Who  does  not  feel  his  faith  in  a  resur 
rection  and  immortality  strengthened  by  hearing 
of  this  ?  Who  knows  what  beautiful  and  winged 
life,  whose  egg  has  been  buried  for  ages  under 
many  concentric  layers  of  woodenness  in  the 
dead  dry  life  of  society,  deposited  at  the  first  in 
the  alburnum  of  the  green  and  living  tree,  which 
has  been  gradually  converted  into  the  semblance 
of  its  well-seasoned  tomb,  —  heard  perchance 
gnawing  out  now  for  years  by  the  astonished 
family  of  man,  as  they  sat  round  the  festive 
board,  —  may  unexpectedly  come  forth  from 
amidst  society's  most  trivial  and  handselled 
furniture,  to  enjoy  its  perfect  summer  life  at 

I  do  not  say  that  John  or  Jonathan  will  realize 
all  this;  but  such  is  the  character  of  that  mor 
row  which  mere  lapse  of  time  can  never  make  to 
dawn.  The  light  which  puts  out  our  eyes  is 
darkness  to  us.  Only  that  day  dawns  to  which 
we  are  awake.  There  is  more  day  to  dawn. 
The  sun  is  but  a  morning  star. 


14  DAY  USE 



RENEWALS  ONLY—TEL.  NO.  642-3405 

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